AND so the big day has finally arrived.

Feels like an eternity since we defeated Workington to claim our place in the Championship.

This year promises to be a really strong competition and we could hardly wish for a more formidable opponent in the redoubtable Rovers of Featherstone.

They have been one the Championship’s stronger sides for many years, regularly featuring in and around the top four. Under chairman Mark Campbell, they have invested considerably over the years, and have done so again this off-season.

While Dewsbury managed to get past them in the excellent Yorkshire Cup, that will have little bearing on the outcome tomorrow.

Since then, the Rovers three Papua New Guinea players have landed and will be nicely settling in and the club are also major beneficiaries of the dual registration relationship with Leeds Rhinos.

Off the field, the club have made great strides over the past few years, including a magnificent fan-built stand, and they continue to have strong prospects developing out their land bank around the stadium which hopefully will safeguard the clubs for many years. All in all Featherstone are one of the strongest opponents, and continue to be a credit to Championship.

That said, our own pre-season has been fantastic, including our Yorkshire Cup triumph; but now begins the real test.

We have put together a strong and balanced squad for the tough 27-game programme we face in the regular season. It’s an old saying but the season will be a marathon and not a sprint and under the new competition format a top five play-off series awaits the qualifiers.

In fact I would go a little further and say a top three finish is really the target if we are to present a realistic chance of mounting a promotion challenge to the top table.

The new play-off structure offers a theoretical chance, for positions four and five but it goes without saying that we want and expect to be in the hunt.

Expect Toronto and Toulouse to be exceptionally strong and don’t expect too much to separate the leading UK-based sides.

Widnes should be there or thereabouts as the recently-demoted Super League team, but they do appear to have ownership challenges which might prove a destabilising influence on the club, while Halifax and Leigh join Featherstone in that strong and experienced bracket of being thoroughly established Championship clubs that will win far more than they lose.

Leigh struggled in the financial stakes over the off-season, but to be fair, it looks like charismatic owner Derek Beaumont has found fresh inspiration (and money) and looks set to roll his sleeves up, and have another crack at winning the promotion prize.

When you consider that our other Yorkshire rivals Batley, Dewsbury, York and Sheffield are also very strong teams, you get a strong sense of the challenge that awaits the Bulls.

That doesn’t include the likes of recently-promoted Barrow so the competition looks set to be a real cracker.

Every team considered, Toronto, who showed their strength last week, will be the one to get past.

They will face the feel of a grand final each week – similar to what the Bulls faced in 2018. They are deservedly the bookies' favourites in the early markets with everyone gunning to collect their scalp.

Owner David Argyle says the club doesn’t need promotion and I can understand that.

The club won’t get anything from central coffers if they do reach Super League, the other owners will see to that, and frankly to your average Torontonian; Featherstone and Castleford are equally unknown. So what’s the difference?

Why should the owner place himself in a tougher league if there is no reward for it.

It’s an interesting perspective sure to stir some debate. Argyle sees a European aspect to the Toronto odyssey, and clearly has global aspirations for the Wolfpack brand, even pushing recently for an increase in the salary cap.

Speaking of the salary cap, oh dear oh dear. What a pickle Wigan has gotten themselves into, again; with yet another salary cap breach.

Before commenting on the big news of the week, can someone help me here and explain precisely what a “technical breach” is, which apparently is what some commentators are referring it to as?

Call me Kiwi but surely a breach is, well, a breach; a pretty straightforward black and white issue; you either did or you didn’t break the rules of the competition?

If I was breaking the speed limit, I would be speeding; not technically, but actually. Maybe I’ll try that argument if I get flashed. “I am sorry your honour, I was only technically speeding”. I would be laughed out of court and off the planet.

No, this is a clear attempt to minimise the adverse PR associated with what some old fashioned folk would simply call cheating.

I can imagine Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan and his club spin doctors furiously phoning around anyone and everyone seeking to get their mitigation in first; for fear of being labelled cheats after what the RFL auditors have found to be a clear breach of the rules of the competition.

Let me tell you, I know, from our own salary cap returns, that they are based on honesty and self-declaration. I am not sure how you can innocently under report costs?

The average man in the street, might conclude it’s either wilful dishonesty, or at the very least it’s sheer incompetence.

Apparently chairman Lenagan is taking personal responsibility for it, which is right and proper, and for which he deserves respect. He should now do the honourable thing and resign.

I mean the whole positivity about the new season, the much-vaunted and expensive relaunch; the “new beginning” has been frankly demolished by this stain on the sport. New beginnings, or same failings?

Super League CEO Robert Elstone has been predictably silent. Worse still; the only thing Elstone has got a reputation for so far is slavishly mimicking the NRL. Well the NRL have had a fair share of salary cap scandals recently. They all play out the same way.

Protestations and denials from an outraged club, who quickly go quiet, when the full facts emerge and officers and club officials get barred or stood down. Let’s see if Mr Elstone’s public admiration of all things NRL stand the icy blast of having to apply those same behavioural standards to those who hired him. I think we all know the answer.

If the actual offence wasn’t bad enough, the adverse coverage is being perpetuated by the running of an appeal. The defence that was offered is suitably laughable.

Apparently the finance team at this multi-million pound well resourced business were over stretched. Thankfully the club have reported they have been co-operating fully.

The next defence is even worse. It amounts to “well we didn’t actually prosper, 2016 was our worst year.” Is this a joke, is it April 1?

I suspect there will be little sympathy around the rugby league for Lenegan’s plight.

There is too much contempt and bad feeling for the divisive activities of the last 12 months, and some people will find it deliciously ironic that the man who was roundly at the centre of this division has been unmasked so royally.

Only recently he was pontificating about it being better “to be right and win”, before somehow converting a 19-16 club vote, into an apparently overwhelming winning margin, conveniently omitting that it was the weighted voting that delivered it. What patronising claptrap.

Why, for instance should Salford get twice as many voting rights as our own club. It is immoral and unethical and results in poor decisions.

To be fair, winners are grinners as they say and the real villains of the piece are those weak Championship and League One clubs who pathetically succumbed to pressure in equal measure to give away their only negotiating card for what, a pre-season friendly against a Super League Academy side.

Remind me again what was the attendance at the mouth-watering natural pre-season match up of Workington v Huddersfield Academy??

Of course there is something of a pattern of behaviour emerging at Wigan, the club that like to present itself as the biggest and the best.

In my first year at Bradford they again were sanctioned for breaching the rules….only technically breaching them you understand……..for unilaterally calling off a Sky fixture to preserve the playing surface for the their football landlords.

More recently our own junior John Bateman had to take the extraordinary action of issuing his own statement to contradict a Wigan press release saying he had agreed to re-join the club at the end of his three year stint at Canberra. And even more recently Lenagan takes a none too subtle dig at Leeds, Castleford and Featherstone saying Zak Hardaker’s previous clubs should have tackled his behavioural issues and that Wigan will now sort it out.

Well I hope they do for England’s sake…and I hope that have more success than they clearly didn’t have had sorting Joel and Sam Tomkins's behavioural issues out, if the bar room revulsion is anything to go by. What hypocrisy.

You have to wonder if there is something in the water generally over Wigan way.

First of all you have all the cultural issues at the rugby club and now you have the leader of the council bellyaching about the World Cup venues announced this week.

Apparently Wigan Council are not content with getting a mere three fixtures at their Leigh Sporting Village and demanded an even greater share.

We at the Bulls were equally disappointed in Bradford missing out on hosting rights, but we didn’t go spouting off claiming false outrage.

The tournament has made its decisions and while disappointed for the City of Bradford, we need to move on, and we do hope both World Cups are a great success.

This week, the club also announced that Pulse 2 along with the Telegraph & Argus and LOCALIQ have signed fantastic principal partnership agreements with the Bradford Bulls. The club is very pleased to welcome both organisations into key strategic partnerships and we are all looking forward to great progress this year on and off the field.

That progress commences on the field tomorrow at 3pm at Odsal Stadium, against Featherstone Rovers. Get along and support your team, as we begin our journey towards redemption for 2019.