Brett Kearney will not take any risks as he bids to return from an injury which is likely to rule him out of the start of the season.

The Bulls full back is currently sidelined as he recovers from an operation on his sternoclavicular joint, which connects the sternum and the collarbone.

Kearney sustained the injury midway through last season but played through the pain barrier and then aggravated it during the defeat at Castleford in August.

He was subsequently sidelined for the remainder of the season and then underwent an operation he is still recovering from – with his scheduled return date pencilled in for mid-March.

The hugely influential Australian said: “I did it in June last year and had been having painkilling injections but then in the Cas game it’d had enough.

“I copped a decent tackle – from one of my own team-mates actually who landed on it – and I knew straight away I’d made it worse.

“After the game it had just gone and I could tell that something was going to have to happen.

“We spoke after the game with the medical staff and over the next couple of weeks, and it’s one of those injuries which can repair itself.

“All the way through the off-season I took it nice and easy and got back for pre-season training.

“I started training that week but it hadn’t moved far enough along unfortunately.

“After the end of the first week of training, I said to our physio Dan Ramsden ‘I think we need to get it seen to’.

“It was at the stage where it would pop out and wasn’t going back in so I would have to pull it back down myself.

“So I decided to have the op and now it’s feeling a lot better.

“The operation went well and it’s been a bit frustrating because I was in a sling for six weeks. But since then everything has been moving forward.”

Despite his progress, 30-year-old Kearney added cautiously: “I’m not due back until mid-March but if it keeps going well then I could be back earlier.

“Hopefully I can start a bit of contact soon and push on through.

“But it’s not worth wrecking it at the start of the season when there are 27 rounds to play, hopefully a few Challenge Cup games and a semi-final play-off series.

“If I have a reaction I’ll slow it down; if it goes well then I’ll move forward.”

Matty Blythe also looks set to miss the start of the season with a thumb injury.