DEPARTING head of rugby John Kear says he leaves Wakefield Trinity “with a heavy heart but in a good spot” after securing a release to take over as Bradford Bulls boss.
Kear, who coached Wakefield from 2006 to 2011 before spending five years at Batley Bulldogs, returned to Belle Vue this season in a new role to assist head coach Chris Chester.
He helped guide them through a fine campaign, narrowly missing out on the top-four, and, in August, signed a fresh one-deal with Trinity to take him through 2018, too.
However, the Wales boss has now taken over at fallen Super League giants Bradford who start the new season in League 1 after relegation from the Championship.
“It was with a heavy heart I left Wakefield,” said Kear, the Bulls job only coming up after Australian Geoff Toovey confirmed last month he would not return for a second year at Odsal.
“I’ve got an emotional attachment with the club; look at the last 11 years – six of them have been there with the other five at Batley. But I absolutely love coaching and the opportunity to be head coach at an iconic club like this proved too much of a lure to turn down.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time returning to Wakefield and working with the people there. The itch to coach has always been there, though. The challenge at Wakefield was a different one. It was great working alongside Chris Chester; that’s why it was so tough to leave. But they are in a great place with Chris as coach, Michael Carter and Chris Brereton heading up the administration.
“I think I’ve left them in a good spot, and the challenge here is completely different –and different to any I’ve had throughout my career.
“I’m excited and I’m looking forward to it.”
He will be assisted by Leigh Beattie while Lee Smith, the 31-year-old ex-Leeds Rhinos, Wakefield and England full-back, is appointed captain as Bulls bid to fight their way out of League 1 at the first attempt.
Kear, 63, added: “All those League 1 clubs will have Bradford at the top of their hit-list. Keighley, Oldham, York, Workington, Whitehaven, Hunslet... they’ll be waiting for us and wanting to be the first club to turns us over. We’re fully aware we’ve got the ‘Wanted’ poster hanging over our head, but we’ve got to handle that and use it to our advantage.”
Castlefordian Kear has signed a three-year deal and Trinity chairman Carter conceded: “I am very saddened to see John leave us. We tried our very best to keep him, including offering him a further extension of his current contract.
“But I could see John was itching to get that head coach tag again and I’d never stand in the way of him doing that. I consider John a true friend and gentleman and that friendship will continue. John will be welcome back to Wakefield any time and I wish him and Bradford all the very best for the future.”
Meanwhile, Trinity are now seeking an extra assistant to aid Chester in 2018.
He currently has ex-Great Britain star Lee Gilmour – on a part-time basis – and Stuart Dickens in his coaching set-up.
Two of our community clubs ended up with ties against the armed forces after the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup first round draw was made last night.
Drighlington will travel to play the Royal Air Force and Normanton Knights are away at the Royal Navy, in matches to be played on January 27/28.
There is an interesting derby clash with East Leeds hosting Thornhill Trojans, while Hunslet Club Parkside and Hunslet Warrirors are both at home to Valley Cougars and Wath Brow Hornets respectively.
Among the other ties, Featherstone Lions entertain Skirlaugh, Oulton Raiders host Siddal while Leeds side Queens are in Cumbria to play Distington.
Former Wakefield and Leeds forward Gareth Ellis, who lifted the cup in 2016 and 2017 with Hull FC conducted the draw with ex-St Helens full-back Paul Wellens.
Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, first round: Leigh Miners Rangers v Myton Warriors, Underbank Rangers v Batley Boys, Kells v British Police, Wallsend Eagles v Pilkington Recs, Rochdale Mayfield v Crosfields, Lock Lane v Hindley, Hunslet Club Parkside v Valley Cougars, London Chargers v Hammersmith Hills Hoists, Royal Air Force v Drighlington, Oulton Raiders v Siddal, Millom v Strathmore Silverbacks, Loughborough University v Bradford Dudley Hill, University of Hull v Hensingham, Orrell St James v Northampton Demons, Royal Navy v Normanton Knights, York Acorn v Askam, Saddleworth Rangers v Thatto Heath Crusaders, Shaw Cross Sharks v Beverley, West Hull v Longhorns RL, East Leeds v Thornhill Trojans, Hunslet Warriors v Wath Brow Hornets, Featherstone Lions v Skirlaugh, British Army v Milford Marlins, Distington v Queens. All matches will be played across 27/28 January 2018.