Cougars old boy relishing cup return with Dudley Hill

Jason Lee is looking forward to his Cougar Park return

Jason Lee is looking forward to his Cougar Park return

First published in Sport by

Former Cougars winger Jason Lee will make an emotional return to Cougar Park on Sunday as Bradford Dudley Hill seek to write themselves into Challenge Cup folklore.

The Dudley Hill coach spent four years with Cougars between 1998 and 2001, a period he cites as the happiest time of his career.

Now the Welshman is returning in a bid to guide Hill to a momentous upset as they aim to reach Monday’s fourth-round draw, when Super League clubs enter the famous competition.

Lee, who played for Dudley Hill and Warrington before joining Cougars in 1998, said: “I had four years at Cougars and I was pretty lucky in that I played in a really good, winning team.

“I remember speaking to the BBC when I retired and saying they were the best years of my playing career.

“The fans, the coaches, the lads I played with, I’ve got nothing but the highest regard for Keighley as a club.

“I loved it there. In 1999 we got to the semi-final of the first Northern Ford Premiership, when we lost to Dewsbury.

“I was lucky enough to make the team of the year for three years in a row. It was a really good time in my life but the one regret I had when I left was the money situation.”

Cougars went into administration in the mid-1990s and again in 2001.

Lee added: “I stuck with them once during financial difficulties but it was hard to do it twice, although I enjoy going back there. I went back with Doncaster and it was quite difficult.

“I made a lot of friends with the supporters and Cougars is always the first result I look for on a Sunday.

“Barry Eaton did a great job and Jason Demetriou is doing some very good things there now too.”

Lee says Dudley Hill are in a “win-win situation” ahead of Sunday’s game after the tie was switched from their Parry Lane home to Cougar Park.

“As a club we spoke and felt that we should go to Cougar Park,” he explained.

“As much as we maybe could have gone to Odsal, it can be a pretty empty place with maybe 500 people there.

“Going to Cougar Park will make for a better atmosphere and hopefully we can get around 1,000 people there, maybe even 1,500.”

Hill beat Leigh East in the previous round and boast some talented young players, including prop Kyle Bateman – elder brother of Bulls star John Bateman.

“It’s all about my players now, I’ve had my time,” added Lee. “We’re taking five players who are 19 or under and it promises to be a fantastic experience.”

Lee is expecting a stern test from Demetriou’s star-studded side, adding: “It helps when you can call on your mates to sign for the club but that will only get you so far.

“They still have to go out and perform and Jason has got them playing some great stuff, as was showed by their promotion last season.

“I wish them every success – except for this weekend, of course. I’m sure Jason will rest a few of his men but rugby league is a funny game and we’re going there to give a good account of ourselves.”

Demetriou said: “We are loooking forward to the challenge. They’re a strong amateur club that have beaten Cougars in the cup before.

“I’m looking for us to show how we have progressed as a club and put in a very professional performance.

“We are buzzing after the win at Batley as it was the first time Cougars have beaten Batley at Mount Pleasant since 1993 and we want to continue our progression as a team.”

Demetriou added: “I will rotate the squad slightly and anyone with any slight injuries will not be risked.

“Chris Clough, Gavin Duffy and Jamie Shepherd are possible inclusions.

“We will play a very strong squad as we do not want to disrespect our opponents or the Challenge Cup competition.”

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