Paul Royston is relishing the extra responsibility he will have in the coming weeks following Paul March’s shock two-month stadium ban.
Royston serves not only as the club’s highly-regarded head of strength and conditioning but also as performance director – a role he accepted during the off-season.
That increased his influence at Cougar Park and, with player-coach March set for a long absence after his appeal failed on Wednesday, Royston is set to play an increasingly pivotal role on match-days.
March is not allowed to enter the stadium that Cougars are playing in 90 minutes before kick-off and can only return 30 minutes after the game is finished, as was the case during last weekend’s win over Swinton.
Royston, who owns the Workouts gyms in Keighley and Shipley, said: “We didn’t want to make too much of it but since November I’ve been performance director.
“That was so I could help Marchy with what we were doing pre-season with the recruitment of players and bringing on some other personnel at the club, such as the younger coaches.
“You want to feel that we are gradually moving forward as a club, so it seemed logical that I took that role to support Marchy and I’ve been here for years on the conditioning side anyway.
“It gives us a little bit more structure because we were a bit up and down last year.
“We felt we needed to maybe organise and check the performance right across the club from the coaching staff to the players – everything really.
”In March’s absence, Royston will be assisted by Adam Mitchell and Jamie Chambers.
Royston said: “Marchy has had a four-match ban previously so he’s been on the touchline with me but he’s also been playing quite a bit this season too.
“I’ve always had an input but, with Marchy not being allowed in the stadium, more responsibility has fallen on me to look at things during the game and how it is panning out.
“But I’ve been involved in that for quite a while anyway.
“I’ve got Adam Mitchell helping me and he’s an ex-Cougars player who has come on board to develop his rugby coaching along with his strength and conditioning coaching.
“As he’s a player I can trust, I can get his advice tactically because he was a decent half-back at Cougars and York, having started out as a lad at Bradford Bulls.
“Adam is a great help and I brought him in November to assist on the rugby side while Marchy was playing. He’s someone I can trust and there is a mutual respect there.
“Jamie Chambers has taken on more and more of the week-to-week conditioning. Him and Adam will be doing most of the conditioning sessions.
“Jamie works with me at Workouts and had 12 months at Leeds Rhinos so he’s a very helpful young man.”
March will continue to organise the team’s training sessions during the week and will pick the team and decide tactics.
Royston said: “We train on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so obviously Marchy will be totally influential in terms of how we play.
“We basically play two different ways. When Marchy plays at loose forward, we tend to pivot around the half-backs and then him.
“Sometimes he will carry the ball in a more traditional loose forward style. When Marchy isn’t playing, we tend to have three bigger fellas and work down the centre more.
“We pretty much know the tactics depending on how we are injury-wise.”
Cougars travel to North Wales Crusaders on Sunday aiming to continue their encouraging start to the season.
Last week’s 20-12 home win over Swinton earned half-backs Danny Jones and Paul Handforth a place in the Championship Team of the Week.
Cougars could be boosted by the return of Andy Shickell and Ash Lindsay this weekend but Sean Hesketh is a doubt with a calf problem.
Elliott Cosgrove (eye socket) will miss out and James Haley (shoulder and rib) could also be sidelined while skipper James Feather (groin) will also be assessed.
Royston added: “We should have a reasonable group of players to choose from.”
Cougars’ trip to Whitehaven has been put back from Sunday, June 8 to Tuesday, June 10, with a 7.45pm kick-off.