DANE Chisholm is hungry to put the Knights to the sword as he targets an opening-day return for the Bulls.

York provide the opposition for the first League One game of the 2018 campaign – the first league meeting between the two clubs for 31 years.

Chisholm is confident he will be available to make the first competitive outing under their new boss at Bootham Crescent on February 18.

The Australian is well on the road to recovery from the season-ending knee injury he suffered on his return game for the Bulls in the Summer Bash.

He said: "I feel a lot better than the back end of last year. I've had a good off season and come back ready to rip into training.

"I was away from footy for a bit, so I got the chance to go to Australia and see my family.

"It was a bit frustrating that I couldn't play but I'm back now and counting the hours to get back out there.

"I'm still aiming for that first game. That's what I'm hoping for.

"I just need to get my strength back and fitness levels and keep rehabbing that knee. But I'd like to be ready for the first round.

"I wouldn't want to risk it in a trial game before then. If I can give it a bit longer to get stronger, then I will."

Chisholm had major surgery on June 4 and eight months was the timescale he was quoted when the injury happened before he would be able to play properly again.

"I'm doing my straight running and can do all the right exercises for building up the leg, squatting and things like that," he said.

"It still aches a bit but that will take a while to go away. You just have to learn to deal with the pain and get on with it.

"It's great to be part of the group. I've been doing a lot of conditioning stuff by myself, so it's good to be around the boys again."

Chisholm signed a two-year contract extension in September and has been impressed with the standard of recruitment ahead of the Bulls' first taste of third-tier rugby.

The aim is to go straight back up at the first attempt and joint-owner Andrew Chalmers wants the team to do it with a perfect record.

Chisholm said: "It would be good if we did finish undefeated – but it's a long season. We'll worry about that at the end of the year and see how we go.

"We've had some real quality young lads join the group, as well as the older heads. It's what we needed to help the younger boys and it looks a really good group.

"We'll just worry about pre-season first and then aim to take it week-by-week."

Leigh Beattie is once again taking the reins on an interim basis until Geoff Toovey's successor is appointed.

Beattie performed the role last season for far longer than originally intended because of a delay in getting the head coach's work visa through.

Jon Sharp was strongly rumoured to be favourite to take over. But it is understood interest in the former Featherstone and Huddersfield coach  has cooled.

The club this morning confirmed that they are inviting applications for the post by next Friday and no interviews have taken place.

The Bulls are there to be shot at in the bottom division – and York are excited to have first crack at them.

Knights coach James Ford said: "I'm sure the club will do a great job in promoting the game off the field – and I'm sure the players will be excited about the prospect of being the first team to beat Bradford Bulls in League One.

"Bradford are obviously a well-supported club, as you would expect for a club with their history. Their supporters will want their on-field fortunes to turn around."

The first home game will be against London Skolars, before the Bulls face Keighley in a keenly-awaited derby at Cougar Park.