JOHN Kear admits he is “bemused” by clubs not wanting to play rugby again this year.

The Bulls coach is gearing up for the autumn cup competition that has been put forward by the RFL after the Championship and League One seasons were scrapped.

While Super League returns on Sunday, it was announced last week that both lower divisions would not be coming back.

Kear has voiced his regret at that decision and is keeping his fingers crossed that the tournament being lined up as a short-term replacement will go ahead.

He said: “We’d have preferred the league to have continued but obviously it didn’t and that’s very disappointing.

“In part that’s down to the RFL but also in part to some of the clubs.

“I just can’t understand a rugby club not wanting to play. That bemuses me.

“It is odd but I’m not going to bad-mouth clubs because we don’t know the ins and outs.

“All I can say is that we’ve got a competition and I’m delighted that we have.

“The fact is there are some games, we’re delighted to be involved in them and we’ll enjoy them.”

Clubs have until the middle of next month to say if they want to be considered for the competition, which is planned to mark the sport’s 125-year anniversary with a prize pot of £250,000 at stake.

Given the exceptional circumstances, the RFL are applying no pressure to take part and are happy to assess the interest before making any decision.

Keighley Cougars announced at the start of the week that they would be standing down for the rest of the year. York are also thought to be close to pulling out.

As the number getting cold feet continues to grow, Barrow and Batley at least have joined the Bulls in pushing for the competition.

It is understood that the RFL will go ahead with it providing there are at least eight takers from the 26 teams approached, even if it means two groups of four playing each other home and away.

The start date of early October remains flexible, although it does tie in with the government’s proposal to allow some fans back into stadia around that point.

The cup final would be scheduled for the final weekend of November before the traditional end date for player contracts.

Kear added: “I believe there will be enough (teams willing to play) to make it a meaningful competition, certainly from the people that I’ve spoken to.

“Obviously, the money that’s available makes it even better.

“It gives the fans something back which is what they deserve. It’s been tough for the players and the coaches but it’s been very, very tough for the supporters.

“We need fans in and that date is feasible for that. It’s better than no rugby.

“It is a competition and if you’re in it, you may as well try your best to win the thing.”

The Bulls, who have not played since March 13, held a zoom call with players and staff last week to discuss their plans to be involved.

Kear said: “Everything is pretty positive. For me, it’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders."