ADY Cooney has gone back to his Keighley past to build a future for rugby league in California.

The 44-year-old has come a long way from his days at Keighley Albion 20 years ago and his two seasons in Keighley Cougars' second team.

But how did he come to be spearheading the growth of the sport Stateside?

Cooney crossed the pond six years ago and never looked back.

Before he talks about his future in the sport in the Californian sunshine, he looks back at his rugby roots in both codes.

Cooney said: "Like many I started my rugby career early on with Keighley Rugby Union.

As I moved into my early teens, I switched codes and played for Silsden Rangers in their Under-15s.

"I moved back to Keighley RUFC in my late teens.

"After missing a few seasons through injury I moved back into the rugby league ranks where I played under Gary Moorby and Paul Moses in the late 1990s as a winger for Keighley Albion, where they competed in the National Conference League. We had a fantastic team and it was easily the best time as a player in my rugby career."

Fast forward 20 years and now Cooney wants to transfer his own experiences to fulfil the potential of the sport thousands of miles from his home.

Cooney added: "For us Stateside, we are able to share the success that Keighley Albion has had since they started their youth programme.

"We'd love to emulate their structure and have teams at every age level competing week in, week out.

"The sport is very much in its infancy here. There are established teams in the East Coast from a senior standpoint. However, to my knowledge, none have a junior set-up.

"The potential is huge. In California alone we have a target audience of some 40 million people, with 350 million people countrywide.

"Given the right investment and willingness from people to get together and follow what we are doing at grassroots in other states, I can see this competing with already-established sports.

"The potential is huge for both organisations, not just from increasing exposure of the game, but to the longer term opportunity for players and teams to integrate.

"Ultimately, we hope to increase the pathway to the professional game for all involved.

"We believe that rugby league is a safer, simpler and less technical game to learn, a very dynamic game that is an affordable option to say American Football, where it can run into thousands of dollars per year to participate.

"It's an absolute pleasure to be part of the new organisation here in California and to be able to partner with Keighley Albion where we look forward to a successful partnership."