RITCHIE Hawkyard has predicted a bright future for Keighley Cougars after revealing he held an emotional meeting with his team-mates to tell them he was retiring.

The 33-year-old full-back retired from rugby league with immediate effect after a 12-year career which saw him play for four clubs; Cougars, Bradford Bulls, Swindon Lions and Oldham Roughyeds, scoring a total of 96 tries in 257 appearances.

He also won international honours, making one appearance for Scotland in a friendly in 2007, the same year his playing career started, at Bulls.

Huddersfield-based Hawkyard, who works full-time as a plasterer for Kirklees Council, says he made the decision to hang up his boots to spend more time with his family, including his daughter, who is seven, and his one-year-old son.

During his first spell with Cougars, between 2016 and 2018, Hawkyard scored 34 tries in 64 appearances.

He then left Cougar Park to join fellow Betfred League One club Roughyeds where he won promotion to the Championship.

But Hawkyard would return to Cougars in October, saying he had unfinished business with the club.

He said: "I did not want to leave Cougars in the lurch halfway through next season.

"I spoke to Rhys (Lovegrove, Cougars' head coach) and told him this is what I want to do. He was fine. I said he was where I was, but he retired when I was 27.

"I then had a word with the lads. It was hard seeing the lads and I spoke with them for five minutes. I broke down and sobbed my eyes out.

"I cried all the way home. I thought 'have I done the right thing?' But then I thought it was worth it really."

Aside from spending more time with his family, Hawkyard wants to pass his knowledge on. He revealed he has applied for the reserve team coach job at Huddersfield Giants.

He added: "They will do well. What I have seen of Rhys he is a very committed coach. He leaves no stone unturned. They will go well this season, especially with the players they have. They have got a mixture of youth and experience. Players like Jake Webster, Benn Hardcastle and 'Buster' (James Feather). There are also young players from academies with a point to prove."

Hawkyard says he wrestled with his head during pre-season as he decided whether to retire or not after re-signing for Cougars.

He revealed it has taken him longer to get over injuries, bumps and bruises he experienced from playing.

Hawkyard said: "I didn't do pre-season, my body was in bits. I needed to sort my head out.

"You have to be committed to play rugby league and you miss out on a lot.

"When you are playing, you have to go by the fixtures list. I wanted to do what was best for me and the club. I wanted to get Cougars into the Championship. Then I had two months' downtime. I was just playing five-a-side with my mates and enjoying it."

Hawkyard will be taking part in a charity marathon in January. He will be part of a squad completing a Walk for Ronan, a coast-to-coast feat of 125 miles on foot in three days.

It will raise funds in memory of former Huddersfield Giants youngster Ronan Costello.

Ronan, 17, was playing for Huddersfield's Under-19s team against Salford in June 2016 when he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being tackled by two opposition players.

Go to justgiving.com/crowdfunding/forronan to make a donation.