HOW do you write an article where you try not to go over-excited by Bulls’ impressive start to the Betfred Championship season, but also try to avoid downplaying a bouncebackability that should be celebrated?

Not entirely sure, but I guess I’ll find out in the next thousand words or so.

Think of this as something of a brainstorm, as I spit out opinions, ideas and stats in an attempt to work out how we should view what we’ve seen so far in the opening month.

First, we’ve got the absolutely unarguables.

Beating last year’s runaway league winners Featherstone away from home for the first time in nine years is hugely impressive, especially when you back that up by coming from behind six days later to defeat last year’s Million Pound Game losing finalists Toulouse at Odsal.

In 2022, Bradford were embarrassingly beaten three times in one season by bitter rivals Halifax, including a Good Friday home defeat against a Panthers side who had a man sent off in the first minute.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Bulls were embarrassed at home to 12-man Halifax two years ago this month.Bradford Bulls were embarrassed at home to 12-man Halifax two years ago this month. (Image: Tom Pearson.)

And a year ago this weekend, Bulls had the shame of being nilled at the Shay, as a hotly anticipated Challenge Cup fifth round clash fell flat.

To win so comprehensively against them this Easter, with an injury-ravaged side full of loanees and Australian debutants, was extremely satisfying, even more so when you consider Fax failed to score in the second half.

And to achieve all that off the back of what felt like a possible reality-check 42-12 defeat to title favourites Wakefield in Bulls' league opener, where first-team trio Jorge Taufua, Lee Gaskell and Dan Okoro all suffered bad injuries, shows character to hit back from a night that was a lot for players and staff to process.

What is sport for if not to get us excited? Why bother putting yourself through the bad times, relegation, administration, liquidation, League 1 etc etc, if you can’t enjoy the good moments?

But to misquote veteran football manager Neil Warnock, as well as taking out the naughty swear word: “Let’s enjoy the highs, but let’s enjoy them by being disciplined.”

It does not seem anyone needs to warn the Bradford camp about getting too carried away though, with an unnerving, yet refreshing, calm emanating from staff and players alike.

After the win at Featherstone earlier this month, Bulls head coach Eamon O’Carroll told me: “I just want to make it clear that we’re not getting excited here, because there are areas of our game where we need to be a lot better, or we’ll get burned going forward.

“Even looking past the first five games, I don’t see any easy ones for us after that.

“On paper, it looks like we’re playing the top five teams in the league in our first five games, but that’s the great challenge of the Championship rugby.

“We’ve managed to get a couple of wins, but we have to keep backing that up now.”

Second row Chester Butler, one of the few players still here from that grim 2022 season where Bulls finished ninth, was even more emphatic in between the games between Fev and Toulouse.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Chester Butler scored this fine try at Featherstone earlier this month, but he still was not fully satisfied with Bulls' excellent away win. Chester Butler scored this fine try at Featherstone earlier this month, but he still was not fully satisfied with Bulls' excellent away win. (Image: Tom Pearson.)

He told me: “We definitely can improve defensively.

“We watched the Featherstone game back in training on Tuesday night, but I’d already watched the highlights myself beforehand, and we shouldn’t have conceded the three tries we did.

“They came off the back of our own errors and while fatigue definitely led to some of those mistakes, they were easily avoidable.

“We want to be the best defensive team in the league but to get anywhere near that, we need to cut out those errors we’ve been making.”

In that interview, Butler also talked about strengthening with loanees this season, something Bulls have not always got right.

The first half of last season felt like there was a bit of an obsession with making use of Bradford’s dual registration deal with Leeds Rhinos.

But that led to players like Leon Ruan and Luis Roberts looking out of their depth in games at the likes of Keighley and Barrow, as well as unhappy club stalwarts like David Foggin-Johnston, who were dropped in favour of using these youngsters.

But Bulls’ outstanding success of that dip into Super League came with Huddersfield prop Fenton Rogers, who had the benefit of spending virtually all season with the club, as opposed to the Leeds boys popping in to say hello for a weekend.

And the approach with Rogers has clearly worked with Aidan McGowan this season, with the Giants full back Bradford’s standout player so far.

If Bulls can keep the likes of the returning Rogers, Harvey Wilson, Lucas Green and Connor Carr alongside McGowan for most of the season, they will have a band of talented loanees who will become increasingly accustomed to all the intricacies of the coaching staff’s tactics, as opposed to coming in and having to learn as much as they can in a couple of days.

If McGowan has been Bulls’ best player this season, Australian hooker Mitch Souter cannot be far behind.

It has been a while, well Super League, since Bulls kicked off a season with a real influence from Down Under in their squad.

But with Jorge Taufua and Souter well established in their side now, and Zac Fulton and Tyran Ott showing positive early signs, the added quality the Australian game possesses is being shown each week.

A note of caution for Bulls, just so we don’t fawn over them too much four matches into a 26-game season.

It is easy to forget given his sacking in early-May, but Mark Dunning made a bright start last season too, with Bulls’ league campaign kicking off with three brilliant home wins over Widnes, Toulouse and Sheffield.

Creditable performances came at home to Whitehaven and away to Featherstone, meaning the only standout flop in the opening six fixtures came at York, a 32-16 defeat in their first away game.

Bulls looked arrogant, sloppy and lazy that night, with the injury-hit Knights romping to a deserved victory.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Bulls had a grim night in York last February, crashing to a deserved defeat. Bradford Bulls had a grim night in York last February, crashing to a deserved defeat. (Image: Tom Pearson.)

When Bradford bounced back in those next few fixtures, it was easy to view that Monday night as a blip, but when that attitude and those issues reared their ugly head again in the next three months at Keighley, Halifax and Barrow, there was only one way Dunning’s tenure was going.

Bulls return to the scene of that mid-February crime this weekend to try and right the wrongs of last year against a York side whose four defeats from four so far in no way reflects the quality in their squad.

But, perhaps for the first time in the whole league season so far, Bradford will go into a match as clear favourites to win.

They have raised themselves for derbies, rivals and the French, but if they can back it up against sides they have no excuse not to beat like tomorrow, maybe that will be the clearest sign of all that this Bulls side isn’t like the ones who have gone before in the last few years…