THE return of half-back Joe Keyes against Keighley Cougars was one of the biggest positives for John Kear with the new season less than a week away.

A knee injury picked up in the World Cup had limited the Ireland international to just one brief run-out against Dewsbury.

But the Bulls boss was delighted to see Keyes come through the whole game against their neighbours in a fractious encounter.

The stand-off kicked four from four five conversion attempts and was central to much of the Bulls' attacking threat.

Kear said: "Joe was a big positive for me to come back from injury and play 80 minutes.

"He was a threat with ball in hand and he kicked well. His goal-kicking was good and he defended competently – that's a massive plus point for me."

With half-back partner Dane Chisholm yet to have any game time following his season-ending knee injury last May, the League One opener at York City Knights on Sunday looks like it could come too soon for the Australian.

Kear hinted this was the case after pairing Keyes in the halves with Brandon Pickersgill in the first period during the win over Keighley, before linking him up with Elliot Minchella after the break.

The Bulls coach said: "I was happy with Brandon and happy with Elliot in the second half.

"It's a nice little quandary to have – whether to start with Joe and Brandon, or Joe and Elliot.

"I thought Elliot contributed well as a 13 in the middle channel too. It certainly helped to clarify things for next week."

Kear was also pleased with his two debutants against the Cougars, with Callum Bustin and George Milton having put themselves in contention for a place in the squad against York.

"Callum's had a knee problem and has been nursing his way back in and I thought he did well," said Kear.

"I thought George Milton was good as well. We got 36, 37 minutes out of him, which is very pleasing.

"We may have lost a couple with dead legs (Jordan Andrade and Danny King) but we can throw a couple in."