BULLS prop Ant Walker insists the squad are doing more work on fitness than ever this year, as he hit back at one criticism that has dogged their campaign.

Walker has had to fight harder than most to get fit, only returning to the sport last year after initially retiring in 2017.

And while sympathy has been in short supply from many supporters, for the front-row in particular, the Welsh international thinks it is a convenient excuse to go after the players with.

Walker said: "We've never done so much work on fitness as we have this year under Kane Daniels and Joel Fulford (of the strength and conditioning team).

"I don't think we're losing games because we're unfit.

"I don't feel we're playing teams where we think, 'fr***ing hell, they're fitter than us', except maybe the full-time ones.

"I don't think fitness is an issue here and it can be an excuse, for players, staff and spectators.

"When you're winning games, people don't say it, yet when you're losing them, it seems to be the first thing mentioned."

Bulls have had an awful July, losing all four games so far, so if fitness is not the issue, what is?

Walker said: "It's hard to put a finger on it.

"We turn up for training every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and things are going well there, then Mark (Dunning) is slowly trying to change things for the better.

"We go into every game confident we can win it, but losing can become a habit, just like winning, so we need to break the cycle and get a win as soon as possible."

Dunning said after the defeat to Barrow that confidence was the lowest it has been in his time at the club.

Asked about that, Walker said: "I understand what Mark's saying, and I think we are probably lacking confidence as a team.

"But the players are all convinced they can win, and sometimes when you're in a bad patch, every decision and bounce of the ball goes against you.

"I don't want to use that as an excuse but that's what seems to happen."

Walker is well aware that it is not just bad luck that has contributed to a diabolical last few weeks on the field.

Talking about the most recent defeat, 30-4 to play-off rivals Barrow, he admitted: "We were second-best.

"We knew how big the game was, and especially with Widnes doing so well now as well, we had to really win to keep our play-off hopes alive.

"I'm not saying we're dead and buried, and we won't give up, but every game is now a cup final, and we have to win them all to give ourselves the best chance of play-offs."

He added: "We've been starting games poorly of late, and conceding early, which means we're chasing the game from minute one almost.

"We'll also get back in it and give ourselves a chance, but not kick on with that momentum.

"That's something we have to change."

But things don't get easier for Bulls, with Saturday's Summer Bash opponents Halifax only losing two of their last 15 games.

Walker insisted: "It's a derby, so all bets are off.

"They bring out the best in players and we've got Bradford lads here, like the George Flanagans and Steve (Crossley), who know what this game means.

"We've got other lads who've played in other derbies too and they inspire us all.

"If we needed any extra incentive for Saturday, then that's it."