KEIGHLEY Cougars beat some tough competition to secure a prestigious prize at the 2020 Bradford Sports Awards for all their excellent off field work.

The Betfred League One side collected the Professional Club/Team of the Year gong over Bradford Bulls and Bradford (Park Avenue) at the ceremony, held at Valley Parade last Thursday.

Despite have a tough time results-wise last term, finishing second bottom of the league after a points deduction, a great winter off-season saw Keighley resolve matters on and off the field to set up a promising 2020 campaign.

With the likes of married gay couple Ryan O’Neill and Kaue Garcia taking part-ownership in January 2019, the rebuild is coming together, with the club pumping in much-needed investment.

The introduction of former Bradford Bulls player Jake Webster was a huge positive, along with hosting events like the country’s first sport-dedicated Pride day and a cancer charity day.

Mick, Ryan’s father, heads the ownership consortium, a role he also held during the famous ‘Cougarmania’ days in the 1990s.

He was pleased to win the award and believes the future is bright.

He said: “It is a privilege to be in the company of all this sporting talent. We are just a minority among all the great athletes with what they are doing. To win something is great.

“We want to get a bit higher, we will come back next time after we have achieved what we are doing. These people here are unbelievable athletes and it is a pleasure to be here.”

Mick O’Neill thinks it is key that the club aim to attract a younger audience in an attempt to bring back those aforementioned memorable times, where Keighley were regularly getting crowds of around 5,000 at Cougar Park.

He added: “I haven’t come back from Australia to have a cold time in a Keighley winter. We have come back to get the Keighley people out and about instead of staying in their house doing nothing.

“The town is decimated at the moment, but if we can get (back) the hub of Keighley, then everything can come together.

“Nothing has been done since the 90s and we have had to clear out the old brigade. The place needed investment.

“We have invested in the team too. We haven’t done as quite well as we thought we would do at the moment but we will.

“We just hope that the community backs us, it is so important. A couple of good wins and we will be on our way.”

Rhys Lovegrove is the man in charge on the field after he replaced Craig Lingard halfway through last season.

The 33-year-old, who used to play for Bulls and Hull KR before retiring in 2016, has Mick O’Neill’s full backing, despite losing the opening two league games of the season.

He said: “Rhys is young and inexperienced at the moment but that is what we like. He is a very genuine man. We have signed Jake Webster from Bradford and they are working brilliantly together.

“You will see Rhys Lovegrove go higher and higher and I think people will be after him eventually. He hasn’t got there yet but he is like ourselves, we will all get there eventually.”

Elsewhere, Keighley Albion Ladies were also praised for their promotion-winning season last year as they were nominated for the Amateur Club/Team of the Year award.

The now Keighley Cougars Ladies finished third, losing out to Bradford, Keighley & Skipton Disability Athletics and West Bowling RL in a competitive category.

Finally, the male Cougars team, who have been working with local schools, were due to have hundreds of pupils down for their upcoming home games before the league season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.