The AMNRL season gets underway next month and one side looking to make their presence felt in 2012 is the Pennsylvania Bulls. Competing in the Atlantic Conference, the Bulls will play their inaugural season under their new name since the merger of Glen Mills and Aston. To complement the name change, the Bulls are excited to announce a number of key signings which are sure to bump them up a notch or two in the early season premiership race. USA Tomahawks internationals, Apple Pope, Kenny Britt, and Akarika Dawn have signed on for the new season and will lace up the boots in the season opener against 2011 Grand Finalists, the Connecticut Wildcats. These three are not the only announcements the Bulls will be making regarding player recruitment, as a couple of big names are to be unveiled in the lead in to the season opener on June 2.
Corresponding with the name change will be a number of coaching changes, with current Tomahawks Head Coach Marcus Vassilakopoulos stepping aside for the season to focus on his position with the national team. David Niu makes his return to a coaching capacity, taking over the head position. Niu will be aided by assistants and former USA Tomahawks and Bulls veterans Cory Sheridan and Chris Craig. Craig and Sheridan have appeared in numerous internationals, and won a combined 10 national championships.
A new administration has taken charge of the off field commitments and they have already secured a number of key partnerships along with a new home venue in 2012. "The Bulls have a long standing history of success in the AMNRL competition and it is my goal to assist them in the process of working their way back to being a club that others in the league feared facing. The club has consistently been the leading club in the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania region, and rather then talk about it, we intend to prove that again in the 2012 season. Our first task is a tough opening game against the Wildcats. Right now, that is our only focus", said David Niu.
In the playing ranks, the Bulls have lost key players Michael Garvey (Ipswich Jets) and promising second rower Herb Beekley (injury). Despite the losses, Captain Bryan Confer remains positive about his team’s chances in 2012. As Confer told WeAreRugby, “We’re also looking to bring in new players from a couple of local Rugby Union sides which will help the club out tremendously with their skill level, and the announcement of Apple, Kenny, and Akarika signing on with the club is a tremendous boost for all of our playing group.”
Confer was also excited about the prospect of Niu returning to the coaching fray, despite losing a quality coach in Vassilakopoulos. “ Marcus will be a loss to the club because of the amount of skill he has taught the Bulls players over the years. Having Niu step in and take over is an enormous gain for the club.”
The Bulls have a number of quality players returning for the 2012 season. Among them are current Tomahawks Andy Kneisley and Louis Tulio, along with Mike Brazil returning from injury and Alejandro Valentin providing electric speed on the wing that has seen him be part of a number national team assemblies. The pair will be expected to provide the level of leadership you would expect from national representative players, and will surely be on the radar of opposing teams.
AMNRL Executive Board Member, Rob Balachandran commented on the new look Bulls in 2012, "I have very clear memories of playing against the Bulls for many years. They were always the benchmark for tough, uncompromosing, and skillful rugby league play. It looks very much like they are well and truly back to being a formidable force in American rugby league. My own club, the Knights have recently taken on the mantle as the top club in the country. We look forward to hosting the Bulls at 'The Castle' in NYC this season!"