Keighley: “We must assume we’re in League 1”

Keighley Cougars have issued a statement regarding their ongoing dispute against their relegation from the Championship in 2014, admitting that they have to “assume they are in League 1”, the third tier of domestic Rugby League, next season.

The fixtures for next season will be announced as early as this Sunday, and with no decision yet made on Keighley’s appeal, chairman Gary Fawcett says the club have to cut their cloth accordingly, and assume they will be in League 1.

The statement read: “At the moment, given the slowness of the RFL response, we have to assume we are in League 1 next season and must cut our cloth to fit. We are in talks with a number of players and hope to begin announcements soon of some new signings. If we get upside out of the process we are going through with the RFL, we will make even more signings.

“Buster (James Feather) is a much loved member of the Keighley Cougars family. I know this decision will have been very difficult for him and I think the fans should support him in whatever he decides. Although his passion is the Cougars, playing is his job. Hunslet are currently in a position to offer Buster more money and playing in the Championship. We can do neither at the moment. We want to take this opportunity to thank him for the years he has been at the club and wish him good luck. We’ll miss him and hope to see him back. We did, however, sign David March to play alongside him.

Fawcett also defended head coach Paul March, who he said is being blamed for the Cougars’ controversial relegation by some sections of their support.

“However, moving on to Paul March first. It seems that some of the supporters are now beginning to blame him for the relegation. This is clearly not the case and I will spell out why,” he added.

“There is a logical reason why we continued with Marchy. In the face of dual registration and with a lower budget than 2012, his team achieved the best win ratio and best bonus points ratio for any Cougars team since 1996. Our team last season achieved a better performance than the JD, Korky, Obst and Tadulala team of 2012, despite this season being a longer season by 8 games, and it is only a quirk of the re-structuring and other teams playing ineligible players that has led to the relegation. Let’s not forget the reason why we are where we are.

“David March played very well at the Grand Final (probably the best player on the pitch when he switched to the back row) and the last time Paul March played with him he scored 27 tries in one season. Further, we have lost experience to the Championship teams, ironically mainly Batley and Hunslet, and we need to backfill with experience. David was available and can provide this much needed experience. Some of our players are young and potentially exciting for next year and they need some older heads to guide them on the field.

“The squad for next year is gradually forming. Given the situation, I think we should all pull together and support the squad so we enter the season on a positive.”