Kear hopes for 8,000 at Odsal in 2019

Bradford Bulls head coach John Kear believes that Odsal can see attendances of up to 8,000 fans next season, as his side prepare for life back in the Championship.

The 64-year-old guided the Bulls back to the second tier last season, after beating Leon Pryce’s Workington Town in the promotion play-off. And, after relegation in 2017, Kear feels the positivity around the club ahead of the 2019 season will draw large crowds back to their home games.

The highest attendance in the 2018 season was 6,441 for an integral mid-season game against York, meaning the last time over 8,000 flocked to Odsal was during the 2015 season for a 36-36 draw with Leigh Centurions with an attendance of 9,181.

“I honestly believe we can hit the 8,000-plus mark on a number of occasions this year,” Kear said. “The opposition is so attractive, and I feel we’ll be doing well, and I feel there is a feel good and positive factor at the club. I’m hoping for 8,000 on three or four occasions last year.”

The Bulls will head into the 2019 season after an eventful pre-season that began with in a Boxing Day victory over York, which was followed by victories in the Yorkshire Cup over Halifax, Dewsbury (semi-final) and Batley (final), as they won the revived competition.

And on the same weekend they won the Yorkshire Cup, they were defeated by Huddersfield Giants as their squad was separated into two, before a heavy 48-12 defeat to Toronto Wolfpack last Saturday, with a seventh friendly against Hunslet still to come, after the season has begun.

And Kear admitted he feels the off-season schedule was perhaps to busy for his side, who started strongly before losing to stronger opposition in Huddersfield and Toronto, and is expecting a tough battle from Featherstone Rovers in the Championship opener this Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of pre-season games, perhaps one more than I’d of liked, but it is what it is and we’ve got through it. The players are looking forward to it, the coaches are looking forward to it and I’m pretty sure the fans are too.  We’ve got a real exciting opener against Featherstone on Sunday.

“I’m expecting a very physical challenge from them. They’ve got the two halfbacks (Watson and Ash Boas) and the centre (Thompson Teteh) from Papua New Guinea. They’ve got a really good hooker in Cameron King and a good young Australian three-quarter (Conor Carey.)

“Until the Toronto game, one that I was really disappointed with, I’ve been delighted with how we’ve gone performance-wise. I take a lot of responsibility for the Toronto game because I put a lot of youngsters against a high-profile side and they racked up some points.”

But Kear added that he has been pleasantly surprised by the quick turnaround the club have made, on-and-off-the-field, and believes the club are making strides of progress to put themselves back to where, he feels, they belong.

“First of all they’re getting paid regularly, which is a credit to Andrew and the admin staff, and that helps a lot when you look at what Bradford has been through in the last six or seven years.

“The training facilities are getting better all the time, the personnel are improving and the attitude has been tremendous. The proof of the pudding ultimately comes in competitive games.”