"THIS fixture could be a great marker for the club on and off the field."

So said head coach James Ford after York City Knights were awarded a plum match with which to kick off the 2018 season - at home to fallen giants Bradford Bulls.

The Kingstone Press League One fixture list has now been announced, and it will all start on Sunday February 18 with a likely bumper crowd at Bootham Crescent for the visit of the former Super League and World Club champions.

Chairman Jon Flatman says it is the fixture all the League One clubs had wanted off the field, and, while Ford is aware it will be a tough one on the pitch, he reckons his troops will be well up for setting a winning benchmark.

"It's a tough fixture first up but we're really excited about it - having them at home as well is excellent," said Ford.

"I'm sure the club will do a great job in promoting the game off the field - and I'm sure the players will be excited about the prospect of being the first team to beat Bradford Bulls in League One."

Five of York's six opening games of term are against teams who likewise will have promotion and play-off hopes, in relegated Oldham, Keighley, Doncaster and Newcastle, in addition to the Bulls.

On that tough start, Ford said: "The standard of League One is improving massively and there are some clubs who have invested heavily in their squads.

"Whatever way the fixtures came out would have been a challenge. They are all tough fixtures.

"Some clubs are really pushing hard financially to make sure they've got a quality team out there. I hope clubs are being sensible, too, and aren't pushing too far, but then that's not my concern. I'm happy with the things we're doing at York and we're looking forward to getting stuck in and testing ourselves.

"I'm sure the supporters will see some fantastic games."

Four-times Super League champions Bradford, having fallen into the Championship in 2014, were relegated again this year having been unable to overcome a 12-point deduction for going into liquidation - prior to re-emerging - before the season started.

Ford said: "Bradford are obviously a well-supported team, as you would expect for a club with their history.

"Their fans will want their on-field fortunes to turn around and I expect they'll bring a large following, but we have great supporters at York and I'm sure they'll be looking forward to it as much as we are and give us more great backing."

Parallels are already being drawn with the Knights' home fixture against Toronto Wolfpack this summer, when Ford's men became the only team to beat the moneybags new boys in the league, in front of a bumper crowd of over 2,600 following an award-winning social media campaign to market the game.

"It will be a challenge for York off the field as well as on it," said Ford.

"But we know how well people behind the scenes did for the Toronto game and it would be fantastic to surpass that in terms of awareness and support.

"We believe in York, in rugby league and in York's potential in rugby league, and this fixture could be a great marker for the club on and off the field."

Knights chairman Jon Flatman believes York v Bradford will be the biggest game of rugby throughout the country that day.

There are no Super League fixtures to compete against, with it being World Club Challenge weekend in which champions Leeds Rhinos go down under to take on NRL winners Melbourne Storm on Friday, February 16.

Flatman said: "We're very excited to welcome the former Super League champions, Challenge Cup winners and World Club champions to our ground, and of course their supporters too.

"But we're also looking forward to welcoming York fans old and new, and the people of York in general, as they come to support us in our challenge not only on the day but also for the new season as a whole."

As reported, the Super 8s format has been scrapped in League One for 2018 following the resignations of expansion clubs Oxford and Gloucestershire All Golds, which has reduced the number of teams in the competition to 14.

Instead, the league will revert to a straight home-and-away format, with the champions like this year winning automatic promotion and the next four teams going into play-offs.

South Wales Ironmen have also relocated and have the new name West Wales Raiders.

Flatman added: "There were 13 teams wanting to get Bradford Bulls at home in their league opener, and I'm sure Bradford wanted to be at home as well.

"It's great for York to get this fixture to start the season. It's testament to the club that we've been awarded it and shows we've been recognised for our work off the field in promoting games."

The Knights finish the regular season at home on September 23, coincidentally against Whitehaven, the side who knocked them out of this year's play-offs after an epic semi-final at the Recre.

The full fixture list is now on thepress.co.uk/knights