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Paul March: Keighley Cougars must raise their game next season
Paul March has set his sights on a top-half finish next year after expressing disappointment at Keighley Cougars’ 11th-placed finish.
March’s first year as player-coach at Cougar Park proved a baptism of fire as his side were haunted by relegation until the final day of the season.
They lost 24-14 at Barrow on Sunday but stayed in the Kingstone Press Championship after collecting a bonus point at Craven Park and Hunslet being well beaten at home to Featherstone.
That saw Barry Eaton’s Hawks slip through the trapdoor along with York City Knights.
The game will undergo a major restructure at the end of 2014 with the bottom two sides in Super League relegated.
Cougars are keen to ensure they are part of that second tier below the top flight – effectively a Super League II – and so the pressure is on to finish in the top half of the Championship next year.
March declared: “We’re definitely looking to finish in the top seven next season and being in one of those two top leagues.
“We’re going to have to do that to make Super League II but this club should be in there with the proud history it has.
“They should have gone to Super League during the Cougarmania days, and that’s where we are aiming to be.
“Myself and (chairman) Gary Fawcett have goals and the fans have their opinions on where we should be, so we’re all striving towards the same thing.”
March, who said influential prop Andy Shickell had agreed a deal for 2014 and was due to put pen to paper shortly, has re-signed the vast majority of his squad for next season, and also added Halifax half-back Paul Handforth.
He is also in talks with brothers Jode and Jesse Sheriffe about next year and will play on himself.
The head coach said: “I’m disappointed that we’ve not done better but our main goal was survival.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of injuries and people were coming and going with the dual-registration agreement with Castleford.
“To keep this group of players, and just add a bit more experience and quality, then I’m sure we can go well next year.
“We need to have a bit of consistency and not have that roller-coaster ride.
“That comes with experience, and these young lads will be a year older and a year wiser next season, which will hold them and the club in good stead going forward.
“We had five or six debutants, and the likes of Josh Lynam and Ryan Patchett have played well over a handful of first-team games.
“The future’s bright for these young lads and we’ll keep giving them an opportunity. Once they get that, it’s up to them to take it and Paul Handforth’s experience will be massive for us too.”
Squad so far for 2014: Charlie Ecclestone, Ben Stead, Matt Bailey, Daley Williams, Elliott Cosgrove, Danny Jones, James Feather, Scott Law, Josh Lynam, Brendon Rawlins, Sean Hesketh, Ben Sagar, Ryan Patchett, Neil Cherryholme, Paul White, Andy Shickell, Sean Kelly, James Haley, Paul Handforth.
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