THE Bulls are hopeful that injured winger Jy Hitchcox will make the Championship curtain-raiser against Featherstone in a fortnight.

The free-scoring Australian sits out this weekend’s double header against Dewsbury and Huddersfield after complaining of a back issue.

Hitchcox is being checked by a specialist but John Kear and his staff are relaxed about the situation.

The Bulls coach said: “He’s having a problem with his back at the minute so he won’t be risked. He’s seeing the consultant and we’ll have to see what he says.

“We don’t think it’s that big an issue but obviously specialists and scans know what they are talking about much more than we do.

“But our medical staff feel quite at ease with it.”

After pre-season wins over York and Halifax, the Bulls step up their preparations with two games. They host Dewsbury in a tea-time tussle at Odsal today in the Yorkshire Cup and then face Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium for Michael Lawrence’s testimonial tomorrow.

Kear stressed it will be all hands to the pump with every available player guaranteed some game time.

He added: “Jy is the only one missing (from last week). We knew with Dalton Grant, he’d be (ready for) Toronto or the first game of the season.

Steve Crossley is the same. Ross (Peltier) obviously won’t be back until into the season.

“Matty Garside will be having his first run-out and everybody who’s fit will play.

“Because there are two games and we’re using 20 men across them, there will also be opportunities for some of the under-19s as well. It will be good to see how they fare.”

Once again, Kear will juggle his half-back combinations as he has done in the previous two warm-up outings.

Joe Keyes and Rowan Milnes will be one partnership, while Jordan Lilley and Dane Chisholm will be pitted together in the other.

“By the time we hit the start of the season I’ll have tried all the combinations,” added Kear. “Then I’ll be able to choose which is the best one for that.

“We’re also trying different centre combinations and in the second row. The players and performance staff know what we’re looking for but obviously the fans go there to watch an enjoyable game of rugby league and I’m certain we’ll provide that as well.

“Deciding on the best half-back combination is a very pleasurable job. All it’s doing is giving me more confidence.

“From what I’ve seen up to now, we’ve got four very good half-backs. Some people might call that a headache – but it isn’t for me.

“It’s a headache when you’ve only got one good half-back and you’re scratching around.”

Kear believes the competition for places will maintain standards throughout his squad.

"It’s not just on the field but in training as well. If anybody has an indifferent session, we’ll speak to them about that and compare and contrast with somebody in a similar position.

“It’s just keeping everybody on their toes and it’s healthy in a sporting environment.”