I ENJOYED the trip to Dudley Hill on Thursday night to watch the first game for our reserve team, as the Bulls drew first blood against the Keighley Cougars club.

Whilst the score was a comfortable result in the Bull's favour, what was more important was the opportunity given to our fringe first team players who all needed a decent hit, and our younger academy players who are without a fixture this week.

What was always clear to me is that teams without a reserve grade pathway will struggle to cope with the physical demands on players, given the nature of the tough collisions and resulting injuries, and impact over the course of the season. The reality is that on its own a dual registration set up is a distant second place to having a full second team competition.

This year the Bulls get to enjoy not only an excellent reserve grade, but also a consistent and successful high performance academy incorporating a scholars team, under-16s and under-19 teams.

A reserve team will enable the Bulls to ultimately achieve and keep our academy players in the high-performance system longer, as we work to develop these players into genuine first team participants. Players develop at different paces, both physically, skill wise and mentally.

The reserve team is the perfect vehicle to complete and ready those players for participation in the first grade team.

I believe too many young quality players become lost to rugby league because at 19 years of age they have not fully developed to handle the demands of the first team.

Add to that our unbeaten 2017 champion women's rugby league team, where our plan is to introduce a women's academy team by 2020 which will develop a genuine high-performance pathway for our female players, combining education with high-performance sport. Like all things it will take time and money, but be assured the commitment by the Bulls is there to make this happen, in partnership with our top learning institutions.

Sport and high-performance education go hand in hand. The opportunity exists for Bradford to become the sports and education hub of the north, and the Bulls plan to lead this strategy.

These initiatives are critical to playing rugby league at the highest level in Bradford in the long run for both genders.

Good on the Cougars for fielding a reserve team this week, but I challenge all the other Super League clubs in our great game to dig deep and be a part of this reserve grade set up. Hopefully football common sense will prevail here for the good of our player development.

Our focus for this week has also been the impending first team clash with the Keighley Cougars. Unfortunately the entire League One round was cancelled last week due to the bad weather, and will be rescheduled later in the season.

One thing is certain, the local derby will bring the Bulls faithful out in force and I see the Keighley chairman Gary Fawcett has already moved to increase the ground's capacity to nearly 5,000 in anticipation of a record crowd.

We know the Cougarmania drums will be beating hard and loud, and that our Bulls fans will get along and show their support.

On the field our last clash in the pre-season ended with a plethora of sin bins and red cards.

Nothing suggests this game will be any less confrontational. It's guaranteed to be entertaining in front of a huge vocal crowd. See you tomorrow 3pm at Cougar Park.

Come and join the stampede.