Former Bulls star Lee Radford is expecting a “tasty run-out” when his Hull FC side arrive at the Provident Stadium for Sunday’s pre-season showdown.
The 34-year-old ex-forward is gearing up for his first season as head coach of his home-town club and could include a number of new recruits this weekend.
Backed by the wealth of ambitious owner Adam Pearson, Radford has signed Mickey Paea, Jordan Thompson, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Tom Biggs, Chris Tuson, Fetuli Talanoa and Jordan Rankin.
Tuson and former Bulls winger Jason Crookes are sidelined by injury, while Biggs and Talanoa have not yet joined up with Radford’s squad, but Kirk Yeaman should feature after missing last Sunday’s 16-16 draw at Doncaster with a stomach bug.
Radford, who fielded a young, inexperienced side at the Keepmoat Stadium, said: “We’re going to bring a squad of about 21 players – and about 70 per cent of them will be from the top end of the squad.
“We’re expecting a tasty run-out against the Bulls, which is one of the reasons why we identified them as strong opponents to have a friendly against.
“The Bulls and Hull KR are our only Super League opposition during pre-season.
“This weekend will be a really good test for us and an insight into where we’re at.”
Hull, who parted company with Australian coach Peter Gentle and replaced him with Radford after last season’s abject 76-18 surrender at Huddersfield in the play-offs, are under pressure to fulfil their potential this season.
Radford, who enjoyed a glittering career at Bradford between 1998 and 2005, admitted: “We’ve got a tidy squad – and it’s a big squad as well, which helps throughout the year.
“I’ve inherited some real quality and we’ve brought a few additions who will help complement that.
“It’s our first opportunity to have a look at one or two of them on Sunday.
“Talanoa, the South Sydney winger, only arrives on Friday, so he’s not going to feature this weekend, but some of the other new guys will.
“We’re really comfortable with the squad we have assembled and it’s fantastic to be in the top job at my home-town club.
“In hindsight, it’s probably come quicker than I expected but it’s certainly an opportunity I wasn’t going to turn down.”
Although there has been no warm-weather training camp for Radford’s troops, they have enjoyed two mini-camps.
Radford, who will be the youngest coach in Super League this year, explained: “We had an army camp in Norfolk and then we went down to St George’s Park, the training base for the England football team.
“The facilities there were as good as I’ve seen, so we’re just at the right time now, 12 weeks into pre-season, where we are ready for a game.
“Adam Pearson is a great bloke and has obviously put a lot of money into the club. He expects success and probably rightly so.
“Since I’ve been in charge he’s been great; everything I have asked for he has pretty much given to us as a squad.
“We want to be consistent and if we do that then it obviously has a knock-on effect on where you finish within the league structure.”
Radford made an enquiry about Bulls scrum half Luke Gale a number of weeks ago before signing Rankin and believes there is plenty of quality in Francis Cummins’ squad.
Radford, who won every trophy on offer during his time at Odsal, said: “Luke Gale jumps out at you as a class player but I think Bradford have got a really tidy front row.
“They brought Garreth Carvell in from Warrington and Nick Scruton, on his day, is as good as any prop in the competition.
“Manase Manuokafoa is very good as well, so up front Bradford will pose a real acid test for some of our boys this weekend.
“Despite their financial problems, the Bulls have still got a very good squad on paper.
“We’re certainly expecting another tough test against what is a top-quality Super League outfit, in my opinion.”
Although Radford is Hull through and through, he looks back on his time at Odsal with happiness and pride.
“I’ve got nothing but great memories of the place and the people who worked there,” said the former back-rower, who left the Bulls after the 2005 Grand Final win over Leeds.
“I think the competition needs a thriving Bradford Bulls, so hopefully they can get back on their feet and get the off-field situation sorted out.
“Bradford have the ingredients to be a really successful Super League club again, without a doubt.
“You wouldn’t wish their current troubles on any club in any sport but it brought the players together a couple of years ago.
“Franny will be hoping it has the same effect on the group that he has this time around. Hopefully they can come out the other side smiling.”