JOHN Kear feels the first month back in the Championship can shape the Bulls’ season.

The campaign kicks off at Odsal tomorrow with a West Yorkshire derby against Featherstone.

Hopes are high that the Bulls have a squad strong enough to fight for a play-off spot on their return to second-tier rugby.

But coach Kear believes that their opening four games will be a useful indicator for his side’s ambitions.

Kear said: “It’s a great game to be starting off with. Featherstone are going to be challenging for the play-off spots.

“We know if we give a good account of ourselves, we can take further confidence going forward for the Swinton, Sheffield and York games.

“We’ll need that first month to give ourselves a true assessment because we’ll have two games at home and two away.

“It will be a variety of opposition so we’ll have a really good idea of where we’re at I think at that point.

“We’ve got different challenges from different teams, different styles of play on different surfaces – it will give us a great barometer.”

New vice-captain Elliot Minchella stressed this week that anything below a finish in the top five play-off spots would be viewed as a failure.

Kear would not be drawn on that publicly but added: “We’ve spoken internally about what we feel we can achieve and ought to be aiming for in the various competitions.

“All I’ve said is that I want us to be competitive in every game that we play. That’s our immediate aim.

“I believe that if we are competitive, we won’t be far off such goals as has been suggested.”

He has been doing his homework on the new-look Fev who play their first game under Australian head Ryan Carr. Rovers are much changed from last year but Kear expects them to hit the ground running.

He said: “Is it a good time to play them? I don’t know. I’ll tell you after the game.

“We went to watch them on Sunday with an extensive video on them. I’ve actually watched them three times against Leeds, Halifax and Dewsbury.

“The improvement from Dewsbury to the Leeds game was phenomenal.

“That was obviously down in part to personnel but also because they played and trained together a little bit more as well.

“I’m expecting Featherstone at their very best and we will be ready for a really tough encounter.”