THANK you to all the fans who supported the Bulls last weekend and witnessed a thrilling first home fixture against our local rivals from Featherstone.

It was strange to see the North end used for the first time, and I apologise to those fans surprised by the fact we couldn’t risk opening the popular side terracing, which hadn’t safely thawed by 1pm.

We were determined to get the game on and took all the steps required to do so. It is the first time I have seen braziers used on any ground, so a big thumbs up to Mark Leadbeater and all the ground staff. We don’t get much call for fire bins on the ground in New Zealand!

The match itself was a very tough contest but we eventually prevailed despite nearly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The match was important for all sorts of reasons. It is of course a reassurance to all involved, that we are competitive in this higher standard against credible clubs boasting overseas, as well as Super League, experienced players.

Within our football department, a great deal of effort goes into benchmarking players and performances, and, as with all our previous encounters, we continue to learn about ourselves.

There are some, still living in the past, who think we should simply be turning up to win without giving due credit to our opponents, but I am pleased that we are methodically rebuilding, keeping our promises and safely stewarding the club to a stable future.

Make no mistake, this is a tough and competitive league and we need to stay firmly focused.

It has solid teams from top to bottom and every week we plan for our rivals to thoroughly test us. Despite the drama of the past 12 months, I believe and hope that the Championship can grow in confidence and respect.

Our next opponents are Swinton, a club given a wake-up call last weekend at Sheffield. Andrew Mazey, their new chairman, said they have recruited well and are threatening to include five dual-registration Wigan players this weekend so they promise to be much stronger opponents at home.

A player whom we won’t be facing this weekend is Will Hope. The poor lad broke his leg, dislocated his ankle and tore ligaments in the first tackle of last week’s game, but as unbelievable as this may sound, this was only the start of his troubles.

It was been reported that the ambulance to take him to hospital never arrived and Swinton placed him, foot pointing the wrong way round, on the team coach to transport him back to Manchester, to a hospital there.

It truly beggars belief that in a competition that presents itself as professional, something like this could happen. What on earth was the medical provision at the game and the arrangements for emergency backup at Sheffield?

The RFL are apparently investigating and so, to be fair, we need to wait for the findings, but at first glance it doesn’t look great. What happened to Will, following his injury is unacceptable, inexcusable, and not defendable.

A friend of mine told me he was once carried off using an old door, back in the 1980s, with a most inconveniently placed door handle still attached, but you’ve got to expect that, in this day and age, we can do much better for the players than this.

The Bulls wish Will a full and speedy recovery and I’m hopeful that his future in the sport is better than his most recent experience.

We visit the Legacy Olympic Park ground at Sheffield on Friday, February 15. Spectator facilities are seemingly pretty basic, seating of any quantity severely limited and, at the time of writing, we are still trying to establish the provisions for our special needs spectators.

I understand the RFL has signed it all off, including granting Sheffield the appropriate dispensation from meeting the league's minimum standards.

The ground's limitations mean that the game will be strictly a ticket-only event. That means don’t turn up without a pre-purchased ticket, and we fully expect this event to be sold out. Tickets will be available for sale from Monday from our club.

It may not be well known, but the RFL has recently changed the way Championship clubs get funded to make it more performance related.

I fully support that philosophy. In fact it should be applied to the whole sport, though believe me there is zero chance of Super League chairmen inflicting a standards based approach upon themselves.

One of the criteria now in place for Championship clubs is spectator numbers, so stand by for some interesting reported figures.

The area which does need attention though is facilities around the Championship and I say this recognising that our own home is not what it needs to be in the 21st century.

Given that our match pictures are now being broadcast around the world, the reputation of the league is enhanced, or diminished, by those images.

I am full of admiration for the likes of Batley and Dewsbury, with smart, tidy and proportionate home grounds which they own and the story of Featherstone’s rebuilt stand by retired volunteers from around the club is as remarkable a story as I’ve heard in sport.

Quite why no one has made a film about it I’ll never know. When you look at some of the new-builds like Leigh and soon to be York, the Championship has got some great venues.

Even Halifax and Rochdale are boutique professional grounds thanks mainly to football money. Unfortunately we have also got some poor facilities, and as a game we need to address this issue head on.

It was disappointing to witness the feeding frenzy surrounding Ben Barba and the allegations of violence towards his partner. Man of Steel to Man of Straw in less than four months.

Let me say at the outset, no right-minded person can possibly condone domestic violence, from either party in a relationship, so this is categorically not a defence of Barba’s purported actions.

However, there is something deeply disturbing about NRL CEO Todd Greenberg preaching to TV cameras that he has already taken strong action, and that Barba’s NRL career is over, while then confirming he hasn’t even seen the evidence or video.

No trial, no investigation, just a pre-ordained summary execution, or should I say global incineration of Super League’s celebrated superman. What does that actually say? How far should a sport look to extend its influence and the application of the rule of law?

The issue is being dealt with by the highly competent NRL Integrity Unit, surely the hardest working department in rugby league. But is this an integrity issue?

It’s not a doping breach, or betting on the contest or salary cap cheating. It’s an issue that should be left to the appropriate law enforcement authorities as applicable.

The NRL, or should I say Greenberg, seem to me to have taken on the world's problems, threatening bans for players for all kinds of off-field behaviour.

Of course it didn’t take long for Super League CEO Robert Elstone to pile in, although I am not sure what it has got to do with him.

Isn’t it the RFL’s job to register players or otherwise. Maybe I am out of touch?

As I have said consistently, the separate and duplicated relationship between Super League and the RFL is fundamentally flawed. If Elstone is going to deliberately stray into the regulatory matters that the RFL deals with, he needs to do so consistently and not simply to curry favour. It is pity he wasn’t so forthright about Wigan’s salary cap breach.

Barba is a man who is the provider for a young family and he has been told his career and his earning potential in rugby league globally is over; without so much as a hearing.

Let the appropriate agencies deal with such alleged issues. Sports administrators should stick to sport.

Back to the task at hand, and the wounded Swinton Lions, armed with the influx of dual-registered Wigan players, will be looking to attack right from the first whistle.

We won’t know who’s taking the field until we see the team list at 2pm! But you can see the impact on team performance from the Leeds dual-reg players in the Featherstone team last week.

Expect the same impact on the Swinton Lions thanks to Wigan and we know that Swinton coach Stuart Littler will be looking to exploit that inflow of Super League talent in his team. We expect a tough, close game.

We will need all our travelling army in full cry this weekend to help overcome the Lions. See you Sunday afternoon at Heywood Road Ground, Sale. Kick off is 3pm.

Tickets are available online at #COYB #BullsNation