THE body language was relaxed, there were no tell-tale signs.

But maybe that was the clue as John Kear appeared for his final press conference as Bulls coach.

Perhaps his mind was already made up when he discussed a much-improved display against Featherstone last night.

Kear gave nothing away about his intentions in what he said.

The performance, inevitably the pitch, the injuries and the play-off hopes which he insisted are still very much on the table even after three straight losses.

Everything was discussed with his usual candour; there was no sign of any results-driven pressure on his shoulders.

Kear appeared equally laid-back when he met the sponsors for the man-of-the-match presentation with David Foggin-Johnston. Again, no obvious tension or concerns.

The timing of this afternoon's announcement that Kear was stepping down was more of a surprise than the news itself.

There had been rumours after that terrible Good Friday for the Bulls when they slipped up against a Halifax side playing with a man down from the first minute.

Rallying calls appearing on the club media channels can often stray into “vote of confidence” territory; the audible dissent from the terraces brought an uncomfortable edge.

Maybe going earlier would have left any replacement facing a hiding to nothing with Featherstone’s visit.

Kear, instead, took one last hurrah – and the Bulls, while coming up short in the closing stages, delivered the sort of game that epitomised the man in charge.

After all the stick flying around in the past week, he had asked for a performance to show the players cared. “I think they answered that in bucket-loads,” he said.

The parting of the ways after 1,596 days in charge looks the right decision for both parties.

Kear, whose contract was up at the end of the season, probably feels he does not need the stress and the hassle anymore.

For the Bulls, it is the chance now to build on the foundations that he laid and freshen things up.

Mark Dunning steps up to fill the void in the interim.

But don’t dismiss him as just a safe pair of hands for the short term.

Dunning is ambitious for an opportunity to further his coaching career and sees himself as a future number one – whether that’s at Odsal or elsewhere. Don’t discount his chances.

He is a popular and well-respected figure in the changing room.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kear masterminded the Bulls' Challenge Cup win over old rivals Leeds Kear masterminded the Bulls' Challenge Cup win over old rivals Leeds

Dunning takes charge for Sunday’s trip to Whitehaven, ensuring there is minimal disruption for a fixture that even at this early stage in the campaign looks a key one if the Bulls are to match the play-off aspirations that Kear was still talking up in his last chat with the media.

Then there is a fortnight’s break before York, with or without their measuring devices, rock up at Odsal.

Plenty of time to take stock, assess the outside interest for the vacancy and plan their next step. The Bulls are unlikely to hurry into a decision.

Whoever takes the role next, they inherit a club on far firmer footing than the one Kear walked into in December 2017; a fallen and broken giant contemplating an unprecedented spell in the third tier alongside the likes of Hemel, West Wales and Coventry.

Kear steered the Bulls straight back up, admittedly through the play-offs as they forged a new rivalry with York.

He consolidated and then established the club back in the Championship amid a backdrop of relocating to Dewsbury and the uncertainty of whether they would return home.

The play-offs last year were disappointingly fleeting after a losing run in the final month which suggested a few cracks were showing.

The Odsal pitch, or lack of it, has proved more of a hindrance than a help and is something that the new man must crack with the team – in their heads as much as with a game plan.

Kear’s style of play came in for criticism from fans wanting to see something more expansive.

“People say that we play very direct rugby,” he countered after the Fev game. “Well it’s difficult to do anything else because there’s six metres either side that are in from an orthodox pitch.”

Injuries have also bitten deep. Last season, he struggled to field the same half-back pairing for more than a couple of weeks.

Currently there are 10 of the squad out of action and the Bulls have hardly been able to tap into the dual-reg agreement with Leeds because of the Rhinos’ own woes in Super League.

The likes of Liam Tindall, Jarrod O’Connor and Muizz Mustapha, all “jerseyed up” for the Bulls this year, are being kept back at Headingley.

But despite the setbacks, Kear still came up smiling to talk through his final fling.

This morning, he sat down with chairman Nigel Wood and they amicably agreed to say their goodbyes.

Kear is an honourable man, hugely respected throughout the game, and deserves to bow out on his own terms. There is no ill-feeling but it was the correct call.