PAUL HANDFORTH is under no illusions about the size of the task facing Fryston Warriors against his old club Cougars.

The former Keighley captain will go into Saturday’s Challenge Cup third-round tie “open-minded” at the prospect of the Castleford-based amateur side producing a shock upset – but accepts everything will have to go their way.

The half-back only joined Warriors to get himself out of the house and maintain some fitness following his retirement from professional rugby league at the end of last season.

But he now finds himself up against his old team-mates in the game’s most famous knockout competition just a few months after bidding them farewell.

Cougars will play the Pennine League Championship leaders at Featherstone’s ground when Handforth, who lifted the iPro Sport League One Cup for Keighley less than a year ago after a man-of-the-match show in the final at Blackpool, will bid to inspire a giant-killing.

He said: “It will be strange coming up against guys I’ve played with last year. There were a couple of texts as soon as the draw was made and I’m sure the banter will be flying round in the build-up.

“I went back to the amateur game just to keep fit but Fryston have gone on a cup run. As soon as we’d won our second-round game I said, ‘I bet we draw Keighley’ and it happened.”

Having made it into the first-round draw after becoming Pennine League champions, Warriors knocked out National Conference League Division One side Normanton Knights before earning a bumper tie with Cougars after winning 40-12 at London Chargers.

‘Tiger’, as Handforth is known, rates Fryston as ‘one of the top amateur sides out there in winter rugby’ but admits making it a hat-trick with their biggest scalp yet will be tough.

But he said: "You’ve always got to go into a game open-minded. For us to create an upset, everything has to go right for us and wrong for Keighley because they are a good side and they are going to be a top side in the division they are in.

"We’ll be trying our best but things will have to drop into place for us."

Handforth, who is the son of former Bradford Northern hooker Tony, admits having to switch the match to Featherstone's ground because their own doesn't meet all the required criteria will reduce their chances of an upset.

He said: "It would have been a leveller and we won’t get the advantage we would have liked but it will be a great day out for people who support Fryston and the players."

Having played in Super League for home-town club Wakefield and Castleford before spells with Featherstone, Doncaster, Batley and Halifax, the 35-year-old is enjoying making a contribution at grassroots level.

Explaining how he ended up at Fryston, he said: "I'm a Methley lad but they are struggling in the 11-a-side Pennine League at the moment.

"I was not really bothered about playing but it got to a point after a few months. Your body is used to playing and I was getting a bit angry with the missus over silly little things and you need an outlet.

"Fryston's coach Danny Bolton, who used to play for Methley when I coached them, rang me and asked if I'd give them a hand.

"I didn't want to commit to playing every week but I went down and I've enjoyed it. It's good to put something back into the amateur game having played as a professional for so long. If I can help some of the young lads coming through then that would be great."

He is not the only name Cougars fans will be familiar with either when the sides lock horns.

Hooker Jack Lee used to be on Keighley's books and is now making a big impression with the recently-crowned Yorkshire Cup champions.

Handforth said: "He has probably been the best player on the field for us in the few games I have played and is doing really well.

"We also have Wayne McHugh, who has played semi-professional and is even older than me, so that experience is there. There are also lads who have been unlucky not to get the opportunity to step up to the next level."

Handforth was unable to help Cougars gain promotion to the Championship during his three seasons at the club.

But he is hopeful that will ultimately come under new coach Craig Lingard, adding: "They have a new coach which will put new life into them.

"I’ve been looking at their friendly results and they’ve been going really well. I hope they do well and get back to where they should be, which is the league above."

While Saturday's clash will put Handforth back in the limelight, he does not regret his decision to retire from the professional game.

He said: "I'm not missing it. When I’ve played a game my body still hurts after but I don’t have to get ready again and go training the following Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

"I've had my time at that level and the higher level, and now I'm enjoying having my spare time and still having a little kick about now and again."