JEREMY Crowther, a stalwart of the Keighley Cougars club for the best part of three decades, sadly passed away on Wednesday, February 14 at the age of 87.

Dedicating the majority of his life to the sport of rugby league, mainly in and around the Keighley area, the passing of ‘Jezza’ has left a hole not just in the town and the sport, but the many lives he touched and affected.

An infectious personality and always with a smile on his face, Jeremy, affectionally known as ‘my boy’ by those who knew him, inspired generations of both boys and girls to play rugby league across the district.

Born in Bradford in August 1936, a young Jeremy attended Bradford Grammar School, where he was a classmate of the now world-renowned artist Sir David Hockney.

It was during these formative years that Jeremy developed his love of sport, regularly attending Bradford Northern and Bradford (Park Avenue) fixtures throughout his teenage and young adult years.

After a stint serving in the Armed Forces in Egypt, he re-discovered his love for sport when work relocated him to Warrington.

There, he became a regular at Wilderspool and develop what turned into a lifelong support for the Warrington Wolves.

Moving back to the Bradford District, and more specifically Keighley, in the 1990s, Jeremy became infatuated with the town’s rugby league club, and the ‘Cougarmania’ craze of the time, after son Jonathan had brought home tickets from school.

From there, he became involved with the club, firstly as a youth coach in the Keighley Cougars Cubs system.

And after initially joining in 1996, he remained at Cougar Park for the next 26 years.

His work with both the club’s academy and school systems inspired generations to pick up a rugby ball and take up the sport in Keighley, including internationals in both the men’s and women’s games.

Coaching, fundraising and eventually running the Cubs set-up at the club, Jeremy’s vision for the academy came to fruition in the new millennium.

With the help and assistance of club legends such as now head coach Matt Foster and Jason Ramshaw, the highly successful Cougars academy and schools systems of the time was launched.

Leading school teams to Challenge Cup finals day at Murrayfield, Cardiff, and Twickenham, as well as winning a number of academy level titles, this period of his life saw ‘Jezza’ develop nearly a hundred professional and semi-professional players in both the men’s and women’s games.

And during this time, he first began his friendship with club doctor Richard Lawrence, whom would later in life help set-up and launch the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund.

Ahead of the 2006 season, Jeremy moved into the first-team fold at the club after being appointed football secretary by Barry Eaton.

Keighley News: Whatever his role at the club, Jeremy Crowther always served Keighley Cougars nobly and with a smile on his face.Whatever his role at the club, Jeremy Crowther always served Keighley Cougars nobly and with a smile on his face. (Image: UGC.)

This was a role he served under Eaton, Jason Demetriou, and Paul March, all three of whom he considered good friends.

Alongside his administrative role, Jeremy’s commitment to the school game continued, and both 2006 and 2007 brought with it his personal greatest achievement as he took girls teams to back-to-back finals.

While South Craven were defeated on finals day in 2006, the following year saw Jeremy take Keighley’s Holy Family school to victory on the first Challenge Cup final day at the new Wembley Stadium.

He also provided solace for both the children and first-team players as a go to man for advice and help.

Following the transition from Eaton to Demetriou, ‘my boy’ assisted behind the scenes during a successful two-year period which saw the club promoted from League 1 and reach the play-offs in the Championship.

Jeremy’s many years of hard work with both the schools and academy programme were rewarded in 2012 by the governing body of the sport, the Rugby Football League.

In an awards ceremony in Salford, he was given the Outstanding Contribution award for his work with the English Schools Rugby League system.

This time also saw the departure of Demetriou and the arrival of March, with whom Crowther would aid in successfully relaunching the club’s schools programme and foundation as they looked to bring through the next generation of players for the club.

The 2015 season proved a difficult one for all involved as Danny Jones, a good friend of Jeremy who he often described as the “funniest man he ever met”, sadly died on the field during a fixture against London Skolars after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Jeremy rose to the occasion once again, providing a support network and shoulder to lean on for all involved at not just the club, but also the Jones family, as they mourned the loss of Danny.

The following year, ‘Jezza’ announced the first of his eventual two retirements at the end of the 2016 iPro Sport Cup winning season, the club awarding him with the Clubman of the Year award.

He did not stay out of the game for long though, answering the call of Craig Lingard to come out of retirement to assist with the administration side of the rugby following Linners’ appointment as head coach.

Continuing to oversee the reserves side alongside Frank Levy under the stewardship of both Lingard and then Rhys Lovegrove, even in his later years a love and passion for the sport continued to shine brightly.

With Cougars on the brink of going out of existence in 2018 due to catastrophic financial problems, Jeremy’s love for the club shone through once more.

He helped spearhead a number of fundraising efforts and dialogue with the RFL, to not just help get Keighley to the end of the season but to keep the club in business.

And it was only fitting at the conclusion of the 2019 season that Jeremy’s many achievements and dedication to the Cougars was rewarded as the club officially inducted him into the Keighley RLFC Hall of Fame.

Following the coronavirus pandemic, Jeremy returned to the club, this time in a voluntary role, to help oversee the re-launch of the Cougarmania Foundation.

He then ran his final schools tournament at the end of 2021, before retiring for good ahead of the 2022 season.

Jeremy’s funeral will be held on Thursday, February 29 at St Thomas Church in Sutton-in-Craven at 12pm.

The wake will take place afterwards at Cougar Park.

Keighley will also be honouring Jeremy at this Sunday’s Challenge Cup fourth round tie at home to Featherstone Rovers.

Current head coach Foster, who as mentioned earlier, knew Jeremy well, told the Keighley News that the Cougars wanted to have a standalone game to honour the club stalwart and have made sure that is the case.

Foster feels the best possible way to honour Jeremy is by putting in a performance against strong favourites Fev that would have made the club legend proud.