Paul March is looking forward to crossing swords with his former mentor John Kear when the Cougars open their 2013 Championship campaign with a trip to Batley.

The season-opener on Mount Pleasant’s famous sloped pitch will mark the official start of March’s tenure as Keighley player-coach after he was appointed as successor to Jason Demetriou.

It will bring him into direct confrontation with his old Wakefield boss Kear, who March admits he learned plenty from after playing under the ex-England coach.

Cougars also face Batley in their second pre-season friendly on Sunday, January 13 before facing them in the Championship opener three weeks later.

That is followed by the first home game of the season against Whitehaven on February 10, before the first big derby of the season against Halifax at The Shay the following Sunday.

March said: “Batley away should be a good opener and hopefully we can get the result we want and then take on Whitehaven at home.

“Hopefully that will be another big crowd at Cougar Park after our first victory.

“I played under John at Wakefield and obviously we played Batley a lot last season, so I saw him plenty of times throughout the year.

“It will be good to go up against one of my former coaches as he’s someone I learned a lot from.

“We went to Batley last year for our first away game and we did a job on them (winning 10-8).

“There’s no reason why we can’t go there and get the right result again.”

The Cougars face Karl Harrison’s Halifax in their final home game on Thursday, August 22 before ending their campaign with a trip to Barrow on Sunday, September 1.

A newly-structured Northern Rail Cup will see the eight Championship One clubs compete in two groups of four, with the top team in each section then progressing to join all 14 Championship clubs in the knock-out rounds when the competition intensifies in May.

March added: “One of the things that let us down last year was that we had too many weekends off.

“We couldn’t play consistently because we were getting breaks all the time.

“This season is completely different. Unless we get knocked out of the Challenge Cup and Northern Rail Cup early, we will be playing every week until September.

“It’s going to be a long old season but we’ve got the squad together to cover that.

“I think all the new signings are great additions and what I’ve gone for this year is Championship players; lads who’ve been playing regularly in the Championship and know what it’s all about.

“Obsty (Sam Obst) and Korky (Michael Korkidas) came straight from Super League and they found it tough.

“It would have been good to see how they had got on this year with a season under their belt.

“Unfortunately they have gone home but we’ve got plenty of other players who are going to shine now.”

March’s recruitment is all but complete but he added: “There’s a bit in the budget should we need it at a later date.

“I’m happy with the way it’s going and I believe we are about four weeks in front where we were last year regarding conditioning and gym work. That bodes well.”