Heath L’Estrange has declared himself fit for action as he sets his sights on putting Wakefield to the sword this weekend and establishing himself as the Bulls’ first-choice starting hooker.
The club’s joint-captain enjoyed a fine game in the first pre-season friendly against Dewsbury but played no part in Danny McGuire’s testimonial against Leeds nine days ago.
He was nursing a slight ankle injury then but says there are no fears over his availability for Sunday’s opener against Richard Agar’s men.
L’Estrange is determined that the Bulls get off to a winning start in the first Super League game of Francis Cummins’ reign and is hoping to get the nod to start the match ahead of fellow joint-skipper Matt Diskin.
L’Estrange, speaking while attending the Super League launch at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester yesterday, said: “Will I be fit for Sunday? Definitely.
“I went over on my ankle during training in the snow two days before the Leeds game but it’s fine now.
“I could have played at a push but it wasn’t worth it for a friendly and now I’m fit I really want to cement my place as the starting hooker.
“I came over here and worked well with Wagga (Wayne Godwin) in my first year and am now working well with Disko.
“I’m happy with the way everything is going at the moment but I would like to get that starting job back.
“That’s up to Franny and whether he chooses me or Disko. But I’m enjoying training and there is definitely a good buzz about the club at the moment.”
The Bulls beat Wakefield home and away last season and another victory this weekend would be the perfect way to begin the new campaign.
L’Estrange is wary of the threat posed by Agar’s side after they reached the play-offs last year on the back of a club-record seven successive wins.
The Aussie said: “Wakefield are a tricky side and they’ve recruited well. Richard Agar is a good coach who knows what he’s doing – but we’re just focused on what we do and on getting the result.
“Just being here at the Etihad Stadium and meeting all the other captains gives you a buzz and I can’t wait for the season to start now.”
L’Estrange and Cummins were joined at Manchester City’s home ground yesterday by John Bateman, who will miss the start of the season as he recovers from a shoulder reconstruction.
But Bateman has been handed a major boost after being invited to the senior England set-up for the first time.
The 19-year-old back-rower, who captained the England Academy side on their tour of Australia last year, is now poised to make the step up into the England Knights squad.
Steve McNamara’s elite training squad and Knights group will congregate in Bury tomorrow, meeting up for the first time since last year’s autumn internationals.
Bateman said: “I got an e-mail to invite me to the squad and was pretty happy about it. I’ve wanted to take the next step up ever since the end of last year when I played for the under-18s.
“It’s good to test yourself against the best and I’m looking forward to being involved in it this week. Hopefully I can take the next step.”
Bulls scrum half Luke Gale, currently sidelined after ankle surgery, will also attend the Wednesday meeting after playing for the Knights at the end of last season.