IT WAS the big call that inevitably divided the Bulls fanbase.

When John Kear and his coaching staff decided to let Dane Chisholm leave for Featherstone, he knew there would be repercussions.

The maverick Aussie was the game-changer in the squad, someone capable of pulling a rabbit from the hat.

But Kear felt change was needed after limiting his early-season appearances.

Chisholm’s departure for Post Office Road left a big hole to fill. Step forward Jordan Lilley.

Kear sat down with the young half back, who was still at that stage on loan from Leeds Rhinos.

“John just told me, ‘right, this is exactly what I want from you Jordan’,” recalled Lilley.

“It was nice to have a clear goal. John gave me the role in the team and it’s been my job to just go out there and execute it the best way I can.”

There was no more dramatic example of that than during the Bulls’ magical run to their first Challenge Cup quarter-final since 2014.

It was a route that looked to have hit a road block as early as round five when Featherstone eased into an 18-point lead at Odsal.

With under 10 minutes left on the clock, the result looked a foregone conclusion. But the Bulls clawed their way off the canvas in a remarkable finish to level.

Then Lilley seized the limelight with a 40-metre drop goal for the golden point as the place erupted.

Suitably modest, the match-winner played down his heroics when looking back over a campaign that saw him last night named the T&A player of the year.

“That’s my job,” he smiled, “to knock it over when it matters.

“I tried to do that and it was a great moment for me personally.

“Nobody gave us a chance when we went 26-8 behind. But we ended up clawing it back from nowhere and it was a great way to win.”

That earned the plum tie at home to Leeds and a first derby clash for five years that will stick long in the memory of the 10,258 crowd.

Lilley, who would sign a two-year deal with the Bulls a fortnight later, was as pumped up as anyone against the club who had informed him he was not part of their future plans.

Again, he rose to the big occasion as the mastermind behind the biggest upset of this year’s competition – despite having another late drop-goal charged down.

Lilley said: “It was a really emotional day. To beat a Super League side the way we did was brilliant.”

The faith shown by Kear was justified as he relished the role of senior partner alongside Rowan Milnes before a broken leg cruelly cut short the teenager’s breakthrough campaign.

But Joe Keyes was finally clear to return by that point and the duo struck up a partnership that bodes well for next season, whatever the uncertainty with special measures and the reluctant move to Dewsbury.

Lilley believes his game has flourished in tandem with Keyes – and is also grateful for his two “minders” for allowing him the freedom to do his thing.

“I’ve got the likes of Connor Farrell and Jake Webster that I’ve got to give big ‘raps’ to this year.

“They’ve looked after me as a half back. People try and spot you as a half and they’ve been the ones to look after me and be in there.

“They do all the defending for me. By them doing that, it means I can attack more and we’ve done that very well, especially towards the back end.

“Getting Joe Keyes back has been great for me as well.

“It means that I’ve been freed up to have a bit more of a running role; get in at dummy half and run out, take 20 taps and do all that.

The Bulls may have missed the play-offs by a solitary point but Lilley will not look on with any regrets as York face Toulouse in France this afternoon. It is too late to dwell on that one-point loss which ultimately sealed their fate.

“Yeah, we didn’t make the play-offs,” added Lilley. “But if someone had said at the start of the year that we’d finish sixth after just coming up from League One, then we would have taken that.

“It’s one of those things. You can’t sit there and dwell on what’s happened and think about the ifs and buts.

“It didn’t happen for us, although it shows how close we came. We missed out by the smallest of margins.

“We slipped up in some games, like the draw with Swinton.

“But we have shown we’ve got the team to be able to push on now.”