Bradford must concentrate on what they do have rather than what they don't when they open their Super League programme at home to Hull KR this afternoon. The Bulls had hoped to have the talented New South Wales stand-off Greg Bird in their side by now, but on Friday they found out that Bird had been refused a visa and will not be reapplying until after his court case in April.
Even if he is found not guilty of assault, wounding and lying to the police, the process of submitting a new application could be a lengthy one, and it is likely to be mid-summerbefore Bird becomes a Bull, if at all.
Bradford can at least reflect that their pack looks up to the job this year. As well as the return of Sam Burgess from shoulder surgery, the Bulls have acquired a genuine Australian legend in Steve Menzies. The back-rower might be in his mid-30s now, but his new coach, Steve McNamara, is convinced he still has plenty to offer.
"It has been fascinating to watch him so far," McNamara said. "He has fantastic game-sense. He's basically a right-sided second-row, but then the ball will go left and he'll be there to get on the end of a move."
Nor will the new man be alone in posing a threat from the pack. Glenn Morrison, a couple of injuries aside, has been exceptionally good value in his two years at Odsal, while the newly signed Nick Scruton and – once he is fit again – Andy Lynch are top-drawer props.
Then there is David Solomona. Sometimes criticised for his fitness and work-rate, the Samoan can do things with the ball more conventional players can only dream about. The combination of his handling skills and Menzies' angled running is a mouth-watering prospect.
Not that there is any reason to believe Rovers will provide easy pickings this afternoon. They have shown steady improvement during their two years in Super League, and could be in with a genuine shout for the top four this season. The St Helens prop Nick Fozzard is their biggest name among their close-season recruits, but a full season from Clint Newton and Ben Galea will do just as much to make them formidable in the forwards. The half-back combination of Michael Dobson and Paul Cooke has much to offer, while Chev Walker, after a tentative, injury-affected first season back, is looking much sharper this time.
Castleford, last in 2008 but full of such youthful potential, could have as many as eight newcomers making their debuts, but the most significant is the return of Ryan Hudson as hooker and captain. And it will be a quick return to The Jungle for Luke Dorn, the former Castleford stand-off making his second debut for Quins. With the departure of Henry Paul and Scott Hill, the London side will rely heavily on Dorn and another ex-Cas player, Danny Orr, this season.
Meanwhile, the Rugby League are in talks with the London Development Agency about using the city's Olympic Stadium after 2012. It could be used for the 2013 World Cup if England win the right to stage it, and as a base for the code in the South.Reuse content