Boxing Day preview: Bradford Bulls v Halifax Panthers

Championship rivals Bradford Bulls and Halifax Panthers get their first run-outs on Boxing Day with a local derby at Odsal (kick-off 12.30pm).

Although there is a strong rivalry between the two clubs, for the coaches the priority will be getting their players into shape for the start of the league season.

Both have brought in a significant number of players, and though Bulls boss John Kear is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding who among their ten new additions might feature, he says there will certainly be new faces for fans to see for the first time.

“There will be quite a number of debutants, we’ve had a fair turnover of players,” he said.

“There’s bound to be a few debutants but its only a trial debut, not a competitive debut. This is a way for them to say to me ‘I want to play in round one’.”

Bradford lost out in the first round of the play-offs last year but Kear says the mood is good among this season’s squad after a strong pre-season so far.

“The morale in the camp is very high,” he said. “They’ve worked very hard indeed, it’s been a tough pre-season but I do feel they are ready to play now.

“I think playing will be a bit of a respite from all the toil they’ve had to do previously.”

His counterpart Simon Grix is less sure what shape his Halifax side will be in and confirmed a couple of certain absentees, including new signing Matty Gee.

“We’ve had not even six full weeks of training, with weather cancellations and whatnot, and a load of new bodies,” he said.

“It’s come around quick. Anyone who plays on Boxing Day you’re a little underdone, so we’ll want to look after the boys and prevent injuries.

“We’ve got a couple of lads carrying knocks at the minute. Matty Gee won’t play, he had surgery in November on his shoulder.

“(Ben) Kavanagh is not a million miles off, he’s been training really well for a weeks but he had a slight pull of his hammy in training so he’s a no.”

Apart than Gee, the other ten new signings at the Panthers in the off-season are all likely to feature for the first time at Odsal.

“They’ll all play,” said Grix. “I think it’s just a really good opportunity to get some time on the field together.”