THE back end of the season has really brought home how youthful the Bradford Bulls squad is.

Head coach Geoff Toovey admitted this week: "I looked at some statistics for coaches to nominate their young player of the year in this competition, and most clubs had two or three, and we had seven or eight, which just goes to show you what a young squad we have."

In the end, though, only James Bentley was nominated for the Championship Young Player of the Year, the winner of which will be announced at the Championship and League One annual dinner in Manchester on Monday week.

However, the Australian isn't about to use how green around the gills his players are as a reason for their relegation from the Kingstone Press Championship.

He said: "No excuses mind you. They need to learn and be hardened, and hopefully we will do that over the last two games.

"It is a tale of hardship this year, but the players will be better for it.

"It won't happen overnight, but jeez they have learnt a lot this year."

Ahead of tomorrow's trip to Dewsbury Rams, Toovey feels that, one blip apart, the players have been more relaxed since their demotion.

He said: "Four weeks ago I would have said yes. We played some great football, but we fell into a big hole against Batley with one of our worst performances of the season in terms of our commitment, but we have bounced back from that against Swinton, and last week as well (beating Sheffield Eagles).

"They really played for each other, and their will and desire was back.

"A bit of that pressure has been let off and they are playing more carefree football, but they are still doing the tough stuff as well.

"We can finish the year off on a high by playing for each other."

Toovey added: "There is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before next year, but it is much better winning than losing, and if the players and the fans can walk away at the end of the season with a few wins under their belts then that is a wonderful thing.

"It is very difficult to motivate players when they have nothing to play for (in terms of the table) but they have the fans to play for and themselves, and they are aware of that.

"That is all that you can ask for at this stage of the season, but we have a great set of fans who turn up every week and sing their songs and cheer them on and they don't want to let those

fans down or their team-mates."

As for how the contract talks are progressing for the Bulls' full-time and part-time players for 2018, Toovey said: "I believe there are contracts out there but at this stage there are no firm decisions yet by the players, the agents or the club but we would like that to be expedited."