JOE Keyes has spoken of his excitement as he prepares to return to action against Keighley Cougars reserves next Wednesday – having endured a six-month lay off with a back injury.

The half-back played an integral role in Bradford Bulls’ promotion to the sport’s second tier last year and scored a try in the 27-8 play-off win over Workington Town.

The 23-year-old has since spent six months on the sidelines recovering from a back injury suffered in pre-season.

Having seen specialists and been given the green light to make his return, the London-born star admits he wants to repay the support of his team-mates by helping the push for a play-off spot.

“It has been the toughest six months of my career so I am really excited to get back out there hopefully on Wednesday and get 80 minutes under my belt,” said Keyes.

“I have seen a few different specialists and for the first few months no one knew what the problem was and that was tough to get my head around.

“I am very positive about it all now and doing everything I can to get fit, it feels like forever since I last played and I cannot wait to get back out there and hopefully push for a first team spot.

“The support of the players has been massive and that is one of the main things that really motivated me to knuckle down and get back on it.

“I want to repay their favour for sticking by me and bringing me through and hopefully I can help towards the push for the play-offs."

Keyes' return will certainly be timely following the injury to fellow half-back Rowan Milnes, who broke his leg against Halifax.

Keyes added: “Fingers crossed on Wednesday it all goes well and I can kick on for the rest of the year but I am gutted for Rowan and I wish him all the best - he has been awesome all year.”