From Bradford to Canberra that led to sunnier days

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Elliott Whitehead runs into Nathan Cleary of Penrith. Picture: Canberra Raiders

AN AMBITIOUS Elliott Whitehead signed up for Bradford at barely 16 years of age, already bellowing loudly to charge out for the Bulls.

It was nearly four years before Whitehead debuted for his hometown’s Super League team.

The wait to the top had tested his patience and after a few further seasons, he would head to greener pastures.

Not Canberra at first, but en route from Catalan Dragons in the south of France, basking in the sun.

The Yorkshireman eventually found his way to the territory’s winter chill, but also found a sight that was as green as the machine of the same colour.

Entering his sixth season for the NRL title contenders, the 31-year-old really could not be more relieved nowadays than to be in Canberra.

Hardly a coronavirus case, no real lockdowns and life remaining in some form of normality.

“As much as I miss at home at times, I am happy to be here,” Whitehead said.

“They’re going through a bad pandemic at the moment.

“It’s really bad and they’re always in lockdown, I believe.

“To be here is just refreshing and I can just go like to the café, and live my day-to day life.

“It’s just so nice over here in the sunshine.”

The ties with Bradford still remain very strong since telling Bulls officials after 109 games – now 14 less than with Canberra – that he wanted to join a big club.

But Whitehead does still think about what he has left behind.

Most former Bulls teammates that are scattered through England’s north are suffering far worse than an interrupted NRL competition ever did last year.

“I speak to quite a few them still – once every other week, actually,” Whitehead said.

“I like to keep in touch with them to make sure.

“A lot of their preseasons have been destructed this year because of covid.

“I know the Wigan Warriors recently closed their training facility for 10 days.

“So, it’s really tough over there, but hopefully they will come through it sooner than later.”

The 31-year-old said looking at the adversity from the other end of the antipodes has made the backrower, who will play his 250th professional match in round 2 at Cronulla, far more appreciative of the good life down under.

“It’s been a tough preseason – every preseason is tough, but especially with the game increasing its intensity, our training has lifted as well,” Whitehead said.

“It has been tough but we know we’re at the end now.”

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