KEIGHLEY Cougars stalwart James Feather is excited at the prospect of his side mounting a promotion push, even if that will spell retirement once and for all.

The 35-year-old player-coach, who joined Cougars in 2003, admitted that the Championship would be a step too far for him, but he feels that he still has plenty to offer in 2020.

Whether that ends up being mainly off the field remains to be seen, with Feather lavishing praise on his two fellow first-team hookers, Kyle Kesik and Ryan Wright.

It is likely that captain Kesik will get the nod over Feather for Cougars' League One season opener at Workington Town on Sunday, part of tough start to the season that the latter is pleased with.

Discussing his now-twilight years, Feather said: "It's becoming a lot tougher now. I said I'd retire at the end of last year, but I had a good season.

"We're a group that all get on and are desperate to win, so who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

"But if we can win the league or get promoted, then I'll retire, because the Championship would be a step too far.

"I'm a realist, I know I'm coming towards the end, but I'm not done yet. I can give still give more to Cougars this season.

"I 100 per cent want to stay on as a coach beyond this season. Rhys (Lovegrove) is a good coach and he's even younger than me, so we can go forward helping each other out with our coaching."

Feather is keen to help out Kesik here and now, though he admitted the former Doncaster man is already a special talent.

He said: "I've dedicated myself to playing this season but it's a strong squad and Kyle is one of the best nines outside the top four Championship clubs. He could play in that league no problem.

"I hope I can help develop his game, but then he's already a good all-round player who could be here for the next few years.

"I don't mind pushing him (for a start) but then we've got Ryan Wright coming back, who's a different type of hooker to me.

"We've a couple of good young lads in the pack but if they're not performing, I could pressure on them and play there.

"I want to play but I might miss a few. As an experienced player, like Jake Webster, I'll come in when needed."

Neither Webster or Feather started against Newcastle Thunder in Cougars' disappointing 16-12 Challenge Cup third round defeat a fortnight ago.

Feather still felt the team acquitted themselves well against 12-man Newcastle, saying that with better attacking decisions, they could have racked up 30 points against the big-budget North East side.

Keighley face Thunder early on in the league season too, part of a tough start which includes Rochdale Hornets, Barrow Raiders, Doncaster and first, Workington.

Feather is happy with the fixture list, explaining: "I'd rather challenge ourselves early on, because it's no use playing the bottom sides early on, then not being ready for the step up.

"I think all of our first five are against sides that should be challenging for the play-offs, but if we're thinking about winning the league, we've got to beat these teams.

"We might catch them cold, so playing them at the start is the best way."