JOE Keyes could make his league return on Sunday against Leigh if he hits the right note in a reserve fixture tonight, according to John Kear.

The half-back will make his long-awaited comeback from a back injury for the midweek tie against Keighley Cougars at Odsal.

Kear said: "We're going to pick a good team around Joe.

"Joe will get out there and hopefully he'll come through his 30 or 40 minutes that we're going to give him.

"He could potentially feature against Leigh.

"What I'll do, once he's played on Wednesday, we'll see how he scrubs up on Thursday.

"We'll ask the medical staff, we'll ask Joe.

"If he feels it's too much after such a long lay-off, we'll give him another week.

"But, if he feels he's ready to go we might say get out there and rock-and-roll and let's see what he can do."

Bulls have suffered horrendous luck with injuries during their first season back in the Betfred Championship.

There is fresh worry with Connor Farrell following the Batley victory, but Kear believes crocked winger Jy Hitchcox is only around a week away from returning.

The Bulls head coach is also happy that their strength in depth and impressive youth system can cover the new concern.

Kear said: "We've got one with Connor Farrell. He's picked up a bit of a bump.

"So we'll have to see if he recovers this week.

"If not, we've got Matty Garside and we've got Brad Gallagher who really impressed me up at Barrow.

"He didn't play so bad on Sunday in the 19s, so there'll be an opportunity for someone.

"Or we could move Elliot (Minchella) there.

"But, there's all sorts of possibilities, we'll just see if he recovers in time or not.

"He's the most serious doubt we've got from the bumps and bruises that we picked up against Batley."

The academy side were in action at Odsal just before the senior team beat Batley 16-0.

They thumped City of Hull Academy Under 19 by 56-6 and Kear admits the performance of Gallagher may have put him in contention for a starting berth at Leigh.

He added: "It wasn't just him. Ebon Scurr's done great as well.

"He had a couple of bursts and he looked unstoppable at times.

"There's more than just young Gallagher.

"There's others but obviously there might be a spot up for grabs in the position that Brad plays."

One notable absentee from the game on Sunday was leader and captain Steve Crossley.

He dropped out with illness, which has taken a toll on his energy and body.

Kear said: "He came in and he's lost four and a half kilos, so it's a hell of a diet he's been on - he's been ill."

"He came Saturday to training and just said, I haven't got any energy, I won't be able to contribute positively.

"That's the honesty we've got within the group.

"Because he put his hand up with that, we said right, this is what we're going to go with.

"It's obviously proved to be the right decision, because there was a lot of energy out on the field on Sunday, especially when Batley had the ball."

Bulls Reserves' squad v Keighley Cougars (H): Will Adams, Callum Bustin, Thomas Doyle, Bradley Gallagher, Matthew Garside, Ashley Gibson, Cobi Green, Layton Heywood, Bradley Ho, Evan Hodgson, Joe Keyes, Jake Lightowler, Jon Magrin, Lochlan McGill, Daniel McGrath, Brandon Pickersgill, Joshua Rickett, Harry Shackleton, Murphy Smith, Sam Smith, Alix Stephenson.