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RugbyL: Manuokafoa happy to have stayed loyal to Bulls

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

As debut seasons in Super League go Manase Manuokafoa's at Bradford Bulls last term got off to a bad start and due to the club's financial problems gradually got worse.

The 28-year-old joined from Parramatta Eels ahead of the 2012 campaign but tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee before Christmas, ruling him out of the opening four rounds.

Manuokafoa, who starred for Tonga in the 2008 World Cup, returned to action against Warrington in March and played every game thereafter, establishing himself as one of the best overseas signings.

But, with the Bulls on the brink of meltdown at the tail end of last season, Manuokafoa's future was uncertain and he was linked with a move away.

However, rather than jump ship, the Australian-born prop penned a new two-year deal once the local consortium, headed by businessman Omar Khan, took charge of the club in August.

It was a risk as Bradford were only given a one-year probationary licence to compete in Super League but, on Wednesday, that was extended until the end of the 2014 season.

Manuokafoa's gamble appears to have paid off and, with a clash against rivals Leeds on Friday, he admits the good times are returning to Odsal under coach Francis Cummins.

"After what the club went through last year and what my family went through last season with me as a player, it was pretty tough," said Manuokafoa.

"But we stuck together as a team and credit to my wife too for supporting me and my son as well. I had them to get my head on it with a lot of wise words and it kept me in the game and kept me sane.

"I've been enjoying my rugby under Franny (Cummins). He's come in and managed to do a great job with us in pre-season and we're paying dividends on that now.

"But there's always room for improvement -- that starts this weekend with Leeds. It's a big, big, big game for us."

Elsewhere, Warrington prop Mike Cooper admits he'll be an unknown quantity Down Under in the NRL when he joins St George next season.

The 24-year-old has become the third player this week to move from Super League to the NRL - following Wigan duo Gareth Hock and Lee Mossop's decision to join Parramatta - although there is an agreement in place for him to rejoin the Wolves.

"It's something I've always wanted to do from an early age. The NRL has been something I've been really keen on," said Cooper, who will line up against Huddersfield Giants on Sunday.

"Nobody knows who I am in Australia and nobody has seen me play before, so it's like going back to square one."

Meanwhile, Catalan Dragons forward Jason Baitieri will miss Saturday's trip to Wakefield Wildcats, and possibly the rest of the season, after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against the Giants last weekend.

But the France forward, whose Australian-born father Tas also represented France, has been backed to return a better player by Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous.

He said: "He has worked really hard to become one of the leaders and I know we will find the strength to overcome this new injury."

Fixtures (1800GMT unless stated):

Friday: Bradford v Leeds, Hull FC v London Broncos, St Helens v Widnes, Wigan v Salford City Reds

Saturday: Wakefield v Catalan Dragons (1545GMT)

Sunday: Castleford v Hull K R (1330GMT), Huddersfield v Warrington (1400GMT)

str/jdg/bc

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