ELLIOT Minchella insists the Bulls are not looking below the play-offs on their Championship return.

The new season kicks off on Sunday with a tasty West Yorkshire showdown against Featherstone at Odsal.

It will be an instant reminder of the tough competition that lies ahead for John Kear’s men following last year’s promotion.

Vice-captain Minchella is relishing the step-up in opposition – and predicts the Bulls will have what it takes to be among the challengers.

He said: “There is an optimism about the place but a realism as well. John is very good with that.

“Our goal is to get in the top five and in the play-offs. Anything less than that will feel a bit disappointing.

“We’ve played five Championship clubs in pre-season and they’ve been really tough games.

“We beat four of them, although you’ve got to remember they are only pre-season. But we’ve taken some confidence from that.

“We’re confident we can finish in that five with the squad we’ve got.”

Minchella sat out the closing friendly against Toronto last weekend as a precaution after suffering a slight calf strain in the Yorkshire Cup final at Batley.

But he will be involved against Fev and the Bulls are also hoping to see centre Ashley Gibson back following his slight arm injury.

After nearly three months of gruelling preparation, Minchella is excited to get into the proper combat.

“It’s been a good pre-season,” added the second rower. “The Yorkshire Cup brought more competitiveness to it.

“But the real stuff begins now and I can’t wait for round one. Featherstone at Odsal should be a good day, a local derby, and hopefully we can start the season with a win.

“It’s been a long time in pre-season, especially in the winter months when it’s tough. But it makes you a better player and you’re getting fitter and stronger.

“I feel it’s gone well at the club and everything is positive. We’re in a really good place.”

The League One play-off final victory over Workington in October attracted an impressive 6,011 to Odsal – and the Bulls crowds could potentially top five figures this season if they are going well again.

Local lad Minchella said: “That’s why I came to the club. Andrew Chalmers showed me the vision where they want to take it.

“The fans are second to none and hopefully the crowds will come back if we get a bit of a roll on.

“They were great last year coming in their numbers and I’m sure they will be again.”