JOHN Kear has made no secret of the fact that his Bradford side need to improve ahead of today's Challenge Cup clash with Featherstone.

But he said he is not surprised his Bulls boys were a little sluggish in pre-season, having seen a similar fate befall Super League and NRL sides in 2020.

A keen scholar of the game, Kear was struck by how even some of the world's best players and teams found it difficult upon their return last summer, after several months without a game.

Speaking to Bulls' official YouTube channel, BullsTV, the 66-year-old said: "When I looked at Super League when they had their break and came back, same with the NRL, I didn't think any team really hit their straps until four or five games in.

"I'll draw you to the example of St Helens. They came back and everyone was wondering what had happened to them.

"Well, they were rusty. But ultimately, they worked that rust out and showed their true quality (by winning the Grand Final).

"I've watched all the trial games of the Championship teams, and it's not just us that's looked rusty, it's pretty much every other team as well.

"I think that's going to be the way for the first four or five competitive hit-outs, until everybody gets back to normal and they're used to the testing.

"That (testing) puts another added pressure on to game day, so we're learning all the time, but I don't think you'll see the best of any team until four or five competitive games in."

Kear is a big fan of the Challenge Cup, and has a real love affair with the competition, after underdog wins in charge of Sheffield (against Wigan in 1998) and Hull (against Leeds in 2005).

But he knows what the priority is this season, saying: "The Challenge Cup is very, very important to us, but believe you me, this year, it's all about the Championship."