KEIGHLEY Cougars’ head of rugby Andrew Henderson says the challenge for the League 1 title favourites is not just to get into the Championship, but to stay there.

The 42-year-old joined the club in October with an impressive pedigree, having done sterling work at London Broncos and Warrington previously, and some talented youngsters have been brought in over the off-season to go alongside top-class veterans like Jake Webster and Scott Murrell.

On Keighley’s long-term aims, Henderson said: “We’re looking at a side for the future.

“Our aim is to progress, and there’s a desire to get promoted to the Championship, hopefully in the next 12 months.

“But it’s important that, if and when that happens, we have the infrastructure and foundations around the club off the field to support that transition.

“There’s no point going up to the Championship if you’re not ready for it, to then just come straight back down.

“Keighley has had great success in the past, but in the modern era, it’s been a bit of a yo-yo club.

“The plan now under the current ownership is to stay in the Championship, before progressing to bigger and better things.

“One day we can maybe reach Super League. That’s a long way off, but that’s the long-term goal.”

Another long-term goal is to improve the infrastructure of the club at youth level, with Henderson saying: “We’re aiming to set up Under-12s, U14s and U16s teams, to play against other professional clubs throughout the year.

“More importantly, those players will get the opportunity to work with quality coaches, they get to be part of a pathway towards the first team and they get an understanding of what it takes to be a professional player.

“We hope to set up a development academy, which is probably another 12 months away, so we could have the U12s, U14s and U16s go into there.

“Hopefully we can set up the reserve grade again in the long-term and we’re currently finalising a partnership with another club in terms of supporting their reserves, which will at least benefit our fringe players in the short-term.”

Cougars have lost out on local talent to bigger clubs like Leeds, Bradford and Halifax in the past, and Henderson said: “We’ve got to create an environment where players want to play for Keighley and they see their future here.

“This team of 2022 is the start of this process. We want to attract players too, because we’re doing great things here and we look after and develop our players.

“Players will move on at certain times in their career, but we want them to come here and become better people and better players.

“There’s some proud history and tradition here, which we can draw from, but it’s also an exciting project, as I believe our current owners have ambition and aspiration, which they’re going to build around a sustainable business model.”