KEIGHLEY Cougars have invoked the spirit of Cougarmania to forge ahead with a new charitable and educational arm.
Cougarmania Foundation is the name of its latest venture which aims to build on the success of the original Cougar Foundation and Cougar Classroom.
The aim is to rekindle the spirit of the nineties when Cougarmania swept through the town as the team achieved national success and matches attracted more than 6,000 spectators.
The wider Keighley community united behind the Cougar brand and inspired a generation of youngsters to take up the sport of rugby league.
This month’s launch at Cougar Park attracted guests including local school heads, Leeds City College, the police and the Rugby Football League.
Foundation trustees Gerry Sutcliffe, Councillor Doreen Lee, Gary Murgatroyd and David Proctor appealed to business, schools, colleges, sporting and voluntary organisations to back their efforts.
Foundation chairman Gerry Sutcliffe, reflecting on his time as Minister for Sport during the Beijing Olympics, said: “I became aware, first hand, of the ability of sport to transform lives and I am passionate about using my experience to build a lasting legacy in Keighley.”
Councillor Lee, the current Lord Mayor of Bradford, referred to her deep-rooted ties to the Keighley Cougars.
Pointing towards the Terry Hollindrake stand, she told guests that she remembered babysitting for the late Keighley rugby league icon, and that her late husband played for the club.
She said “This club is very important to me, as it is to the local community. I would love to see it used as an inclusive sporting hub; something that everyone can come to and take pride in.”
Alongside the success of the club in the nineties, Cougar Cubs junior teams were created and spawned many future stars of the game.
In recent times, Keighley Albion picked up the gauntlet and has provided an avenue into the sport for Keighley youngsters, as the largest club in the Yorkshire junior league and one of the fastest-growing.
Gary Murgatroyd said: “On the back of Albion’s excellent work, and the resurrection of Cougarmania, we now have the best opportunity for years of creating a pathway for Keighley youngsters to play professionally for their hometown club. We would like to play a part in that process.”
He said that, as a former English Lecturer, he was really encouraged by the response of teachers to the formation of the Foundation and the potential it provides to inspire learning and encourage sporting excellence.
He added: “The reaction of teachers and senior staff to the Foundation has been really exciting. They have really grasped the potential of Cougar Park as an educational resource and a number commented that they wished to restore the pride in Keighley, which is definitely what we stand for.”
Guests were shown round the new classroom and other facilities, which were created with money from the National Lottery ‘Awards for All’ fund, and listened to a presentation by Bradley Kelk about the proposal to deliver coaching sessions in schools, leading to a tournament at Cougar Park.
They also had the opportunity to meet ‘Captain Cougar’, as Jake Webster, the former New Zealand international, NRL and Super League star who has been recruited by the club to inspire achievement both on and off the pitch.
Also speaking was David Proctor, former Chief Executive of a large housing association who, along with his wife Margaret, operates the Cougars’ Squad-builder funding programme.
He spoke about the Foundation’s aspirations to help re-develop facilities at Cougar Park to accommodate community and sporting use, and highlighted the hard work that has already been undertaken.
There was also a contribution from David Connor from the Rugby Football League, who explained how he has been working with the Foundation to create an inclusive environment at Cougar Park that all members of the community could feel part of.
Keighley Cougars managing director Lisa Gillwho acknowledged the important work the Foundation were undertaking and guaranteed the club’s full support.
Email email@example.com to find out how to get involved.