Francis Cummins is refusing to make any rash predictions about the Bulls’ prospects for 2013 but is confident they have given themselves the best possible chance of success.
The rookie Bulls coach will take charge of his first Super League game when Wakefield visit the Provident Stadium tomorrow.
Cummins has pushed his men to the limit during a gruelling pre-season and the spirit among his men bodes well for the Bulls’ hopes of reaching the play-offs for the first time since 2008.
Yet the 36-year-old, who served as Mick Potter’s right-hand man for two years after a five-year stint as Leeds assistant coach, is keen to stress that the club are rebuilding gradually after last year’s financial meltdown.
Cummins discussed targets for the year ahead at a team meeting in Oxenhope last week but said: “What I’m not going to start doing is predicting where we will finish and where we should finish.
“We’re still an unknown quantity and part of that meeting was to be honest.
“We looked at the size and age of our squad and discussed where we thought was acceptable and where was not acceptable.
“We can review this as we go along. Once the players come up with it, it’s their goal.
“There’s no point me saying ‘we’re going to win the Grand Final and the World Club Challenge next year’.
“There are aspects of what I will set them and team goals that we will work on a week-to-week basis.
“The other things will take care of themselves. My main thing is to get one hundred per cent from these men buying into the team.
“I want them to give everything they’ve got, which they have done in pre-season, and look them in the eye at the end of the year and say ‘well done’.
“If I can do that, regardless of whether we finish 14th, first, second or whatever. That’s what I’m after.”
Cummins, who will hand debuts to Jamie Foster, Adam Sidlow and Matty Blythe tomorrow, was delighted with the response from his players during their recent meal in Oxenhope.
“I’d never seen such honesty before in my entire career,” he said.
“It’s a massive thing for a young man to do in a group of other young men.
“Making the play-offs would be massive and that’s where we want to be.
“We’re giving ourselves the best possible chance of doing that.
“The main thing is that we’ve got to put the foundations in this year.
“I said to the players ‘you determine where the foundations are laid. You determine whether it’s coming last or whether you go right, we’re going to make the play-offs.’
“How are we going to do it? How many wins will we need? That’s how we’re going to approach it this year.
“After the season we had last year, it’s important that we all stick together and move this thing forward because we don’t know where we can go at the moment.
“It’s important that I set the standards but also the players set the standards. Whatever happens down the years, we’re going to set the bar high so that that becomes the norm and the club will kick on.
“There were things said in previous years about where we should be finishing but the expectation in my squad is that everybody gives one hundred per cent.”
Cummins admits there could be some testing times ahead if injuries bite into his small squad.
“There’s a great buzz and a great feel around the place but that’s all going to be tested,” he said.
“You will have off-days and how you recover from that will test us.
“It’s how we work under those testing times that will really determine where we finish in the league.
“Wakefield have been together a while now and we were in a similar position to where they were at the start of last season.
“It will be tough but we need to get off to a good start.”