JOHN Kear insists this weekend's game against big rivals Halifax is no Boxing Day knockabout for his Bulls side.

But he admitted that both teams are likely to be trying plenty of new things, with new-look squads, with an eye to getting the better of one another during their two Championship clashes in 2022.

Discussing Sunday's pre-season opener, Kear said: "We are excited and looking forward to it.

"But we'll still be turning out a representative team of Bradford Bulls and we want to win.

"This is the first stage towards round one of the season (at Dewsbury), so it's still a big game for us, but we'll play Halifax twice in the league and if you asked me which of these three fixtures we want to win, obviously I'd say the other two are more important.

"This is still a great chance for us to look at individuals, combinations, and the conditioning of the players though."

Boxing Day is a traditionally busy date on the British rugby league calendar, but Bulls' clash with Halifax is one of only three games taking place on December 26.

That does not bother Kear, who said: "When I was at Wakefield, we always had a Boxing Day fixture, and it was the same at Hull.

"But we'll just play whoever and whenever we're asked to play, and we as rugby league coaches and the players are happy to do so."

Kear has just announced Jordan Lilley and Rhys Evans as his vice-captains and he explained: "It's the modern thing really, to have a captain's group, as opposed to just a captain and vice-captain.

"We've got a leadership group too, and that can only be beneficial, with more players having more input.

"That means I can listen to all their views and they can hear mine, and we can work together to improve."

While there is natural excitement ahead of the Halifax clash, the threat of Covid looms large over the country once again.

Kear conceded: "Covid has become part of society and we're just learning to live with it now.

"But I do think rugby league, and that's the administrators, coaches and players, are doing a great job of carrying on with things in the circumstances.

"When you see how much the Premier League are struggling, with the resources available to them, it makes what this sport is doing even more impressive."