League fixtures out: Bradford looking for new coach ahead of opening day clash wth York

BRADFORD BULLS will today begin the search for a new head coach after Geoff Toovey confirmed he will not be returning to the club for 2018.

Geoff Toovey.

The former Manly Sea Eagles chief was a high-profile appointment ahead of last season but – with the crisis-torn West Yorkshire club deducted 12 points after liquidation – was unable to prevent their relegation from the Championship. The three-times World Club champions start next term in League 1 with a game at York City Knights on Sunday February 18.

But after weeks of speculation, ex-Kangaroos scrum-half Toovey, currently home in Australia, has said he will not be heading back to Odsal.

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Leigh Beattie will take caretaker control once more, just as he did after the club’s new owners released Rohan Smith in January ahead of Toovey’s takeover which was officially delayed due to visa issues.

Ex-Huddersfield Giants head coach Jon Sharp, who parted with Featherstone Rovers in July, has been mentioned as the likely candidate to take over at the fallen giants although sources at the club last night distanced themselves from such reports.

In a statement, Bradford co-owner Andrew Chalmers said: “Geoff joined us as we embarked on our journey to re-build the club.

“He worked tirelessly with the support of the football staff to try and overcome last season’s 12-point penalty.

“We’d like to thank Geoff for stepping in at a difficult time and for the personal sacrifices he made to commit to last season. We wish him all the best.”

Toovey, 48, added: “It was a tough decision not to return to Bradford Bulls for a second year.

“Last year was one of the most challenging I’ve had as a coach. The club and fans made the experience one I’ll never forget. From the bottom of my heart I’d like to thank the club, coaching staff, players, sponsors and fans for their unwavering support throughout the year.

“I’m confident the club will have an excellent season in 2018 and continue to move forward beyond the coming year.”

The 2018 League 1 fixtures were released yesterday with all 14 clubs opening on February 18: Doncaster host Coventry Bears, Keighley Cougars welcome Workington Town – with ex-Great Britain stand-off Leon Pryce in his first coaching role – and Hunslet visit Hemel Stags.

Bradford head to rivals Keighley for an eagerly-anticipated derby on Sunday March 11 while the Bulls visit Newcastle Thunder on Friday May 18 ahead of Magic Weekend.