'I NEEDED a new challenge'.

That was the honest assessment of the reason behind Paul Royston's move away from Keighley Cougars after working with them on and off for nearly 25 years.

He has now moved on to Betfred Championship side Batley Bulldogs, but not before predicting big things for his former club in 2020.

Royston has become the Bulldogs' head of performance and assistant coach to former Cougars boss Craig Lingard, who himself joined the club in September. He will also be reunited with Mark Barlow, 35, who retired from playing at Keighley at the end of the season after a 20-year career.

It is fair to say Royston, 62, experienced everything during his time at Cougars. Promotions, financial perils, changes of ownerships, points deductions and everything in between.

He worked with every Cougars legend of the last quarter of a century and says he enjoyed every minute of it.

Royston, who worked as Cougars' strength and conditioning coach, first stepped through the doors of Cougar Park in 1995, so he has been involved in both incarnations of Cougarmania.

He has seen players and owners come and go but sees nothing but positive signs with owner Mick O'Neill once again at the helm and head coach Rhys Lovegrove, who took over from Lingard last summer, in charge of matters on the field.

Royston says Cougars can make a push for promotion from Betfred League One next year after making positive strides with player recruitment this autumn including the capture of Jake Webster from Bradford Bulls and Jamaican international winger Mo Agoro.

Royston, who left Cougars in October, says his departure from the club is amicable.

He said: "I just wanted to take the opportunity to go to the Championship. I have turned it down in the past couple of years.

"As soon as Craig was appointed, we were talking. It just came out of conversations we had.

"This is not a move in negativity, it's a personal step up to the Championship for me.

"Mick O'Neill, Ryan O'Neill and Tim Wood (Cougars' owners and directors) have been great with me. They are doing a fantastic job. It has been completely amicable.

"Another reason to take this Batley job was you don't know when this opportunity will come around again. Cougars have been through the mill and I have stood by the club a lot.

"This was a personal move for me, but everything looks good for a push for promotion for Cougars.

"Rhys is such a hard worker. Everything is there for a great season. They have to be up there with the top teams like Newcastle, Doncaster and Hunslet. Cougars, themselves, have strengthened the team. It's all about the start and carrying that momentum on.

"It's all positive with Cougars. They have made some very positive signings. They have the new gym down there at Cougar Park.

"I have been working with Steeton AFC as well, they were playing there and I was warming them up."

But Royston has moved on and is excited by his challenge to help boost Batley's fortunes alongside Lingard after a 2019 laced with tragedy for the club.

Archie Bruce, 20, died from asphyxiation, just hours after making his professional debut.

The ace, from Liversedge, had made his professional debut at Toulouse Olympique XIII in August just hours before he was found dead in his hotel room in the French city.

French authorities carried out a post-mortem examination, which found he died from asphyxiation, which is when the body is deprived of oxygen.

Royston added: "Batley had a difficult season last year and they are ready for a bit of a lift. They are a family group.

"Batley should be getting in the top part of the league really. We want to be getting back to where we were before. It's a well-run small club. They have tended to overachieve. We want to establish ourselves as underdogs."