ANDY Shickell has confirmed he will retire at the end of the season – but is aiming to bow out on a high by guiding Cougars into the Kingstone Press Championship play-offs.
The veteran prop is in his seventh season at the club and is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and three children.
Shickell has been one of the most popular players of recent times at Cougar Park and scooped the players’ player of the year and the supporters’ player of the year last season.
The front-rower, whose side can take another massive stride towards safety with a home win over North Wales Crusaders on Sunday, said: “I’ve started getting a few injuries and it’s taking longer to recover from each game every week.
“I’ve also bought a caravan and want to spend some time holidaying in that with my wife and kids.
“I’ve got a six-year-old, a four-year-old and a three-year-old and I want to see them growing up.
“It’s not about my form at all and I started playing a lot more minutes at the start of this year.
“I then got a stress fracture in my leg and picked up a few more niggling injuries.
“My form has been reasonably good but I’m 33 now and have been playing rugby since I was seven, so I feel this is the right decision at the right time.
“Cougars are a real family club. They make everyone feel at home, and the coaching staff and the lads are great.
“My wife and kids love the club too – if they weren’t happy, I wouldn’t have stayed here so long.
“I’d also like to thank the Cougars fans for all their support down the years.”
With three successive wins under their belt in seventh place, Keighley are on course to survive and even claim a top-eight play-off spot.
Shickell admits that would be a great way to sign off, saying: “I would love to be in the play-offs and to do well in them.
“Any team on their day can beat any other in this league.
“Leigh are the outstanding team in the division and we should have beaten them at home.
“Doncaster beat Leigh, Halifax and Featherstone have had an up-and-down season so hopefully we can go as far as possible.
“I’ve only got three games left now but I’ve loved my time at Keighley.”
Shickell, who drives the large contingent of Halifax-based players to training at Cougars, works as an electrical cable joiner and is based in Huddersfield.
The job is well paid but the hours are long as Shickell explained: “It’s not just a 9-5 job. Some days I start at 7am and I’m not getting in until 8am the next morning.
“Every one in five days I’m on a 24-hour call-out for any electrical faults and that includes weekends.
“Some days I can work on a Saturday doing 16 or 17-hour shifts and then come and play on a Sunday.
“It is not ideal and you do feel it, although it’s something I’ve got used to and have done since I was 16.”
Shickell says there has been no shortage of highs and lows during his time at Cougar Park – administration, points deduction, relegation and promotion.
He added: “Playing in Grand Finals and getting us up into this division we are in now has been fantastic.
“We’ve had some bad times with relegation and points deductions for going into administration and then going down.
“The Grand Final wins have been the highlight really and it would be fantastic to reach the play-offs this season.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I’ve asked for my three kids to run out with me against Featherstone at home. That will almost certainly be my last-ever game at Cougar Park.”
Shickell, who began his career in the academy with home-town club Halifax, had a spell with Hunslet before rejoining Fax after going on trial with Wigan in 2006.
He recalled: “I actually trained with Wigan. The day I went there, Ian Millward got sacked . . . probably because he wanted me to go there!
“That was the closest I came to joining a Super League club but I was never really going to leave the job I was in.
“It’s a good job and it’s well paid, plus it’s hard to make it at full-time rugby. I’ve had a good career as it is.”
Shickell has no plans to go into coaching but will follow his children’s progress in the game should they take up playing.
“I don’t think so but I’ll see what my kids want to do,” he said.
“I’ve got two boys and hopefully they will want to play rugby.
“My eldest is into football at the minute but he keeps talking about rugby and watches the scores when I play away.
“This weekend he sent me an email saying ‘well done’ after we won at Barrow, so I think the kids will miss it too.
“But I want to spend time with them so I think I’ll just support them in whatever they want to do.
“I might have a dabble at rugby union in the winter to keep myself fit but I haven’t decided on completely hanging up my boots.”
Cougars claimed a third straight win when beating Barrow last weekend and now host another relegated side in North Wales.
Luke Haigh is still not 100 per cent fit after the injury he sustained at Halifax, and Brendon Rawlins picked up a hand injury at Barrow but Cougars have no other major worries.
Player-coach Paul March, meanwhile, has confirmed that Ross Peltier remains part of his long-term plans, despite being sent to Hunslet on a month’s loan.
Paul Handforth earned a place in the Championship Team of the Week for his outstanding display at Barrow.
Cougars winger Gavin Duffy was named Championship One Player of the Week after he scored a first-half hat-trick to help Hunslet Hawks secure a 34-16 win against Hemel Stags.
Duffy is on loan at Hunslet with Peltier and has repaid the faith shown in him by Hawks coach Barry Eaton.
Ex-Cougars boss Eaton said: “I know what Gavin can offer from my time at Keighley. He was just what we needed, and he’s settled in very well.
“He’s playing particularly well and has already scored a few tries, but against Hemel he was outstanding. A couple of his tries were brilliant finishes, and he’s doing exactly what we need from him.”