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Keighley Cougars coach Paul March: My ban has fired us up
Player-coach Paul March says his controversial ban has “added fuel to the fire” as Cougars bid to maintain their encouraging start to the season at home to Barrow on Sunday.
March had his appeal against a two-month stadium suspension for verbal abuse dismissed at a Rugby Football League tribunal last week.
It means he is prohibited from entering any ground in which the Cougars are playing until early July, a punishment which includes Keighley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final at Super League Widnes next month.
But March said the ban had intensified the players’ desire to succeed against the odds.
He said: “We’re getting a bit more consistent. Last year we didn’t have the personnel and an injury to Craig Moss meant we had to move Danny Jones to full back.
“But Jonesy and Tiger (Paul Handforth) have got a really good partnership going and that’s been a massive positive this year.
“But we’re only halfway through the season so we just need to keep kicking on and my ban is just adding fuel to the fire.
“The lads are even more hungry to make sure we succeed, not just for themselves and the club, but for me as well.
“The team spirit is massive at the moment and winning is a habit. We’re certainly in that habit at the moment and it will take a special team to break it.”
Cougars lie in an encouraging seventh spot in the Championship table after 11 rounds.
Last weekend’s 16-14 win at North Wales Crusaders saw Lewis Graham and Jode Sheriffe named in the Championship Team of the Week.
Graham was deployed on the wing after Richie Barnett was ruled out having been involved in a car crash last weekend.
He has since been cleared of any serious injuries but it is unclear whether he will feature on Sunday.
March said: “Richie was taken to hospital so I had to reshuffle and put Lewis on the wing.
“He did a fantastic job there; a couple of try-saving tackles and he really took the pressure off us with the some of the runs he made.
“Jode Sheriffe has just been ‘Mr Consistent’ for me this season and is getting better every game.
“He really puts himself about physically and he caused North Wales a lot of problems.
“Richie has had some scans and X-rays and was in hospital for six hours, so there was no chance of him playing last week. He’s had some strong painkillers since then.”
March is continuing to take training and pick the team as normal, as well as being around on matchdays under the terms of his ban.
He said: “I’ve just got to take the suspension on the chin now because we’ve got four big games coming up and I’ll be there at all four making sure I watch them.
“It’s tough watching the games from outside the stadium but I travelled down to North Wales with the team and the lads did us proud.
“Everything is still running smoothly and the lads are still getting prepared like they do every week.
“On gameday, we have some very experienced players and a good backroom team.”
Ash Lindsay only played 40 minutes last weekend and will be assessed before Sunday’s game but key prop Andy Shickell featured last weekend and March has no other major concerns.
He added: “Ash took a bit of a knock at North Wales, so he’s a bit of a concern, but apart from that everything is good. Competition for places is massive.”
Meanwhile, Cougars’ Under-20s face Featherstone at home tonight in a 7.45pm kick-off.
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