Despite their 22-6 defeat at Hunslet in the second round of the Betfred Challenge Cup, Keighley Cougars have been installed by the bookmakers as 5/2 favourites to be promoted as champions of League One in the forthcoming season, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.
Why ? Well, to start with, the well-known Andrew Henderson has gone from assistant coach at Warrington Wolves to head of rugby at Cougar Park.
They’ve also spent heavily to sign a clutch of new players to provide head coach Rhys Lovegrove with a new-look squad that includes Oldhamer Nathan Roebuck, a young centre or wing from Warrington Wolves, and 21-year-old stand-off Harvey Spence, who played five games for Roughyeds at the end of last season while on loan from Featherstone Rovers.
Roebuck was reared on rugby at Saddleworth Rangers before signing for Warrington. He has followed Henderson to Cougar Park.
Other new boys this year at Cougar Park include talented full-back Lewis Young from Newcastle Thunder; young props Myles Tate from Warrington, Anesu Mudoti (Hull KR) and Bradley Ho on loan from Bradford; winger Anthony Dyne, once of Newcastle Thunder but latterly with Montpellier in the French Elite Championship; hooker Chris Cullimore, back for his third spell at Cougar Park; and Kian Fisher, a teenage hooker from community club Drighlington.
Young, from Castleford, was widely regarded as one of the brightest prospects outside Super League when he was in his pomp with Newcastle.
Cougars also expect big things of Dyne, Middlesbrough-born and a product of Thunder’s youth policy whose ability to score in tight situations at the corner flag has seen him compared with Wakefield Trinity’s Tom Johnstone.
Going head to head with these Keighley new boys in Sunday’s pre-season friendly in the Bronte Country (3pm kick-off) will be many of Oldham’s own clutch of new signings, including a few who were at Cougar Park last year.
Prop Jack Arnold won’t be ready to return to his old stomping ground after an appendix operation, but Serbian international second-row Jason Muranka, prop Jack Coventry and hooker Ryan Wright will have special reasons for wanting to do well over there, as will Emmerson Whittel and Will Cooke, who also played at Keighley earlier in their careers.
It will be the first time the teams have met since the 2019 season when Oldham won home and away on their way to promotion.
Admission prices are £10 adults, £8 concessions and FREE for under-16s, plus £2 for a seated ticket in the Danny Jones stand.
This friendly will be a dress rehearsal for the opening Betfred League One game at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday, March 27 and, as such, will have special significance.
The new YEDS Supporters’ Group are running a coach to the game, leaving from and returning to the Fox and Pine real-ale pub in the town centre.
Situated in Greaves Street, close to bus and tram links, the Fox and Pine will open early at 11am to accommodate Roughyeds fans who are turning up for the bus. They will also provide some food.
The idea is that the bus will leave early (to give fans a chance to enjoy a drink before kick-off) and set off back about an hour after the game, again to provide fans with an opportunity to be social and to mingle afterwards in the bar.
You can find out more and book your seat on the coach at the YEDS website.