Bradford coach Francis Cummins is confident his beleaguered Bulls can pick themselves up from the floor in time for Sunday’s opening First Utility Super League match of the season against Castleford Tigers.
Cummins’ men are reeling from a succession of off-field blows, with the loss of new signing Garreth Carvell and popular half-back Jarrod Sammut going alongside a likely points deduction and confusion over the ownership of the financially-stricken club.
Cummins believes his players are ready to respond to the turmoil, which came to a head in their recent 66-10 hammering by Castleford in a friendly at Odsal.
“Physically we are miles ahead of where we were at this time last season, although the Castleford result didn't reflect that,” Cummins said.
“We were really poor but we had some disruption - we only had 14 players training - and mentally we weren't there.
“It was a freakish result. Those lads never got stuffed once last season but the teams around us did.
“So the Cas result was a strange one but, after a few days, we were back into it.
“The lads have trained the house down. These players and backroom staff are dealing with things that they shouldn't have to but they are very professional and have created a great environment.”
Castleford coach Daryl Powell believes the Bulls’ adversity makes them dangerous opponents.
“They will be rattled a bit and they will respond so we've got to have the right mentality and make sure that we are right on top of our game to get two points,” Powell said.
Former Wakefield Trinity Wildcats scrum-half Tim Smith is warning his new Salford team-mates to be wary of his old club when they visit the Red Devils on Sunday.
New-look Salford are expected to make a big impact in 2014 following the introduction of 14 new faces but Smith, who was sold by the Wildcats to help them through a financial crisis, says his old club remain a threat.
“Wakey have obviously gone through some tough times but I'm sure they will come out the other side,” Smith said.
“They are going to be a tough ask. They're always a competitive side. But I'll be doing my best to get over the top of them.”
Wildcats coach Richard Agar has been busy reshaping his squad in the close season and, although the capture of Sammut has come too late for him to make his debut on Sunday, he was relieved to see his trio of overseas signings arrive this week.
Scrum-half Pita Godinet, who played in the World Cup for Samoa, and Australian forwards Scott Anderson and Matt Ryan go straight into the team as the Wildcats seek to spoil Salford's party.
Godinet said: “We have heard a lot of stories about them and the make-up of their team and what they have done as a team.
“But we are going to think of our own team and go out there and give it to them on Sunday.”
A stadium-record crowd will be at Hull KR to see how Leeds Rhinos respond to their failure to pick up any silverware in 2013.
Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield says the 2012 champions are hungry but believes the competition will be hotter than ever this year.
“We weren't quite good enough last year,” Sinfield said. “For a club like Leeds not to win any silverware is tough and we'll do everything this year to make sure we're challenging.
“The squad is really hungry but I think if you look around, everybody has recruited really well and the competition this year will be fantastic.”
London Broncos are widely tipped to finish bottom after being forced to build virtually from scratch following the move to Barnet and Widnes Vikings boss Denis Betts is warning there will be mercy when they open up at the Halton Stadium.
“You have to turn up with the right attitude and we will,” Betts said.
“They are coming to us with the intention of turning us over but for me, it's all about us and what we do.
“We need a performance but at the end of the day we want to win and pick up the points.”