TOM Doyle has admitted he was not sure Bradford Bulls would have the squad to compete in this year's Betfred Championship, as he gets set for his first appearance against the side he grew up playing for.

The hooker joined Keighley Cougars in the off-season after around seven years at Bradford, first in their academy, then as a first-team player from 2019 onwards.

His new side host his old one at Cougar Park on Sunday in the Betfred Championship, where a win for Keighley would move them to within two points of Bulls in the table.

Doyle's move across the West Yorkshire divide last September was a painful one for many Bulls fans, who had seen the 23-year-old as a key part of their side's future.

Discussing his departure with the Keighley News, Doyle said: "I thought I needed a change.

"There were things happening at Bulls and I found out lots of players were leaving.

"I thought we might not have the squad to compete in the Championship because of that, as I didn't know the signings that were going to be made.

"There was some interest from other clubs besides Keighley, but that faded because they understandably stayed loyal to their contracted hookers.

"But Cougars were practically banging my door down to get me to come and play for them."

Doyle added: "My end goal is to play in Super League, and (Cougars head coach) Rhys Lovegrove has done that himself with Hull KR.

"He has real knowledge of the game, as does (Cougars player-coach) Jake Webster, who I played with at Bulls.

"I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone at Bradford by making this move, and I really feel like I've learned stuff here."

Doyle's Cougars debut did not come until their gameweek three win over Newcastle Thunder, after a ban he picked up in Bulls' penultimate match of last season carried over into 2023.

The young hooker admitted: "It was frustrating, but Rhys was good because he just told me to get my head down.

"He admitted it would give someone else two weeks to show they were a better option at hooker than me, but then I would get the chance to do the same once my ban ended.

"I trained hard, came back in time to face Newcastle, and we got a decent result that day."

Cougars, currently 10th in the 14-team table, are eyeing a third home win in a row.

They will need to produce a mighty effort to beat in-form Bradford, with Doyle saying: "Bulls are on fire at the moment, but I don't see why we can't beat them.

"We have to come with a strong mindset on Sunday, but we know we're capable of producing a good performance."

Asked what it will be like to face his old side, Doyle said: "I'll probably feel more involved than my team-mates after being at Bulls last term.

"It's something for me to look forward to but it will be very strange.

"I came through the academy at Bradford, so I was there for about seven years, and I'd only ever had John Kear and Mark Dunning as my head coaches before this season.

"It's not that I have a point to prove on Sunday, but I feel like I want to do even better than usual, given I'm up against my old side."