BATLEY BULLDOGS head coach John Kear spoke of a “State of Origin series” ahead of last night’s eagerly-anticipated visit of league-leaders Sheffield (Thursday).
The champions were two points clear at the summit prior to kick-off and the former England chief described the clash as the start of a season-defining spell, which he claims will influence contract talks.
Kear has revealed how discussions to tie up the club’s biggest assets have begun but their identities are to remain hidden until after next weekend’s Northern Rail Cup semi-final at Leigh, which precedes a mouth-watering Championship trip to Featherstone.
“This is like a State of Origin series for us and if we want to succeed this year then we have to come through it with both points and progression,” said Kear.
“We are very much on course to make both major finals, but there is still a long way to go this season.
“When we recruited last year, we brought in players we believed would buy into what we are trying to achieve and I think we have been successful.
“Everyone is working hard and fighting for positions but there is no kind of divide, the players are constantly encouraging one another.
“The lack of injuries is keeping completion for places healthy, which I believe is proving pretty crucial for us.
“The squad is hugely talented, we showed that in how we overcame a brilliant Workington side, and we have moved to secure a number of the players for next year.
“But nothing can be sealed on that front until after these games.”
Wingman Johnny Campbell sat out the Thursday night clash through illness, joining Mark Applegarth (knee) on the sidelines.
However the in-form three-quarter will be back in contention for next Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup last-four encounter.
“Johnny is very ill at the minute, he looked terrible when we brought him off at the weekend, but do have cover.
“The Leigh game is of great importance, we want to progress.
“It is a tough draw, but to win competitions you have to beat good teams. Leigh spanked us last time, but if we can raise our game another level from last weekend then we have every reason to be confident.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs boss has played down speculation regarding the future of half-back Gareth Moore.
He was linked with a five-figure move to Dewsbury over the weekend – but now looks set to join Featherstone Rovers for 2014.