Bulls coach Francis Cummins has been dealt a major double injury blow after it was revealed that Luke Gale and John Bateman are set to miss the start of the season.
Gale damaged an ankle when on England Knights duty last month and Bateman is carrying a shoulder problem which hampered him towards the end of the 2012 campaign.
Scrum half Gale is due to have an operation today and 19-year-old Bateman will do likewise on Monday, ruling them out of action for eight and 12 weeks respectively.
That has left Cummins staring at the grim prospect of being without both men for the Super League opener at home to Wakefield on February 3.
The Bulls boss was philosophical about Bateman’s injury setback, insisting it would at least allow the club to build up his all-round fitness and athleticism.
But he was more pragmatic in his appraisal on the loss of creative fulcrum Gale, who enjoyed an outstanding debut campaign at Odsal.
“The two injuries are a bad blow, without a doubt,” said Cummins.
“For any player to miss pre-season is a huge thing because this is when you get your game-time and match fitness.
“John is going to have an operation next Monday, so he’ll be out for 12 weeks.
“Regardless of this operation, though, we had sat down with John and spoken about investing time in him to give him a proper pre-season, so this could actually be a blessing in disguise.
“We are taking him right back, looking at his diet and priming him in every area possible to make him a professional athlete because he’s still so young.”
Gale missed over two months at the start of last season after sustaining ankle ligament damage in round three against Wigan.
Should he miss the start of the 2013 campaign, Cummins could deploy Danny Addy or Brett Kearney in the halves alongside Jarrod Sammut.
Cummins said: “Luke will be out for eight weeks, which is a real kick in the teeth because at the moment he is key to our success and our main playmaker.
“We’ll just have to have a rethink about how we’re going to do things and find a way of achieving it – or see whether we can strengthen the squad.
“But we can’t complain about it, we’ve just got to get on with it.”
The Bulls squad is already thin but Cummins said the injury blows could open the door for other players to stake their claim.
He said: “One man’s disappointment is another man’s gain. That’s what we’ve got to look at and I’m really pleased that everyone else is training well at the moment and investing in their careers.
“Galey healed well from his injury last season but neither he nor John will be rushed back.”