WHAT a very important win last week for our team against Leigh Centurions in what was possibly our most important match of the season to date.

A number of good judges are tipping Leigh to be in the end of the season shake-out and, certainly with the benefit of an extensive dual registration system with St Helens, you would expect that to be the case.

Leigh were the bookies’ favourites by some distance before the match and for us to dig in, as successfully as we did in the second half, was a fitting tribute to all concerned and a fair reflection of the 80 minutes.

Having said that, the team and the coaches are not blind to the improvement that is still needed for us to make a strong challenge this year.

With a quarter of the season already gone we are moving into that part which will shape our destiny. Everybody around the sport recognises that the Easter programme and immediately after can have a pivotal impact on which half of the table you are operating in - and that will be no different for ourselves.

Over that period we welcome Dewsbury, Barrow and Rochdale to Odsal and also face a trip to our nearest rivals Halifax.

These are fixtures that we must be at our best for and with the RFL also pitching Halifax with the Bulls at the Summer Bash extravaganza, our matches against our neighbours attract additional significance.

On the Summer Bash, the level of pre sales from the Bulls’ army of supporters has been hugely encouraging and a vast turnout looks assured.

One of my earliest memories since being involved with the club was at the 2017 Summer Bash where we were narrowly pipped by Hull KR in an occasion that did justice to our great sport in terms of atmosphere and television coverage.

We’ve again been asked to play last on the first day, which is the marquee slot and I know from personal experience how enjoyable Bulls fans find the whole occasion.

As I said many weeks ago, the inclusion of the Bradford Bulls helps make the Summer Bash a success, probably more than any other club, and I believe that the Championships version of this ‘magic formula’ will improve this year, which might not be the case elsewhere.

No matter how you look at it, Summer Bash is a fantastic concept that will be celebrated by the rugby league community, far and wide. Bring it on!

Tomorrow we turn our attention to our neighbours and friends at Keighley in the Challenge Cup in what should be another occasion to celebrate and enjoy. I say enjoy because what better way is there to spend a sunny spring Sunday afternoon than watching a hard fought rugby league game? And I say celebrate because the recent history of Keighley has meant that this is a fixture that might not have been possible a few months ago.

You will recall that the club had ownership issues that resulted in a points deduction. It was only a couple of weeks before the start of the season that Keighley were given the green light to participate in this year’s League One. Well played to all those involved in the resuscitation of the club and I truly hope they go from strength to strength in all their competitions…after tomorrow!

Turning to wider issues, it is interesting to see that the two overseas applications to join the RFL are being asked to present their credentials to a meeting of clubs next month.

This is an understandable step by the RFL Board who will be seeking a mandate from their existing membership to proceed or otherwise with the expansionist agenda.

This is in part because the whole issue of overseas expansion is a prickly and thorny subject for the RFL, one which divides opinions and certainly challenges existing members.

Eric Perez, the visionary behind the Toronto Wolfpack application, is seeking to relocate the former Hemel Stags side to Ottawa while the New York application is more of an unknown quantity.

As I have articulated many times previously, the RFL needs to make sense of its overseas strategy having reached a situation where different clubs are participating in the competition on different terms. Catalans Dragons appear to get the benefit of full membership yet contribute little to the pot whereas Toronto are paying for everything themselves.

With Toronto and Toulouse presently the two leading Championships sides, together with the changes to the league structure pushed through last year, this is now very directly affecting the prospects of clubs such as ourselves, Widnes, Leigh and Halifax, each of whom have had long and distinguished history in the top flight.

This is not a plea for a closed shop or to exclude new areas that can bring great value. The wider health of our sport depends upon expansion beyond the north of England and the eastern seaboard of Australia, if we are to hold our own when other sports march on.

The availability of sports from around the world in the modern multi-media age means that clubs or franchises representing world cities must surely be a huge attraction to any potential broadcast partner.

The challenge for all the game’s leaders is to make sure that these opportunities are embraced while due respect is afforded to the clubs who are needed to create the fixture list that gives these new entrants the chance to compete.

Returning to a previous subject, it was very interesting to see the ruling by the Sports Resolutions organisation that had been asked to adjudicate on the Wigan salary cap breach. (Note: Wigan were deducted two points for breaching the salary cap but on appeal had that penalty suspended for 12 months until March 2020)

In their 16-page report published recently, Sports Resolution appear to significantly contradict Wigan’s claim that there had been full cooperation at the earliest opportunity.

Finally, it has been brought to my attention that in some of the fulsome and worthy tributes paid to former player Michael (Mick) Murphy who has died recently, his career with Bradford Northern seems to have been inadvertently overlooked.

I am pleased to be able to take this opportunity to acknowledge the passing of one of our former players who wore the red, amber and black with distinction. Our condolences go to Mick’s family and friends.

Please get along to Keighley to see your team battle it out on Sunday. The Keighley Cougars unsurprisingly are predicting their largest crowd of the year, with estimates of up to 4000 which will be great for the club and our sport. No doubts about the Cougarmania vs Bullmania hype. We need to tackle them head on with the help of the best fan army in rugby league.

See you this Sunday at Cougar Park, Keighley. Kick-off is at 2.45pm. Don’t forget to check out the helpful away travel guide. Get your tickets from the Bulls Club Shop or online at www.bradfordbulls.co.uk/tickets. #COYB #BullsNation #Bullsmania.