Keighley facing final hurdle

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The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE

BY DAVE HADFIELD

What should have been a day of celebration for Keighley and one of continuing hope for Huddersfield will now be an occasion of a very different mood when the two sides meet this afternoon at Cougar Park.

Keighley, already assured of promotion, if there was any promotion to be assured of, can make virtually certain of finishing as Second Division champions if they win today. With only the division's bottom side, Highfield, left to play, Huddersfield are the last real hurdle between Keighley and the title.

Huddersfield, on the other hand, can maintain the pressure on Batley for second place. The trouble is that such considerations have been rendered irrelevant by Rupert Murdoch and his Super League lite, who have decided that this is a cake of which Keighley and Huddersfield, whatever they achieve on the field, are not to have a slice.

The anger at both clubs and in both towns is tangible and entirely understandable. In neither case are they prepared to lie down and accept their fate as members of a so-called First Division from which escape into the Super League will be virtually impossible. "We are leaving the legal battle to the directors," the Keighley coach, Phil Larder, said. "The best thing I and the players can do to strengthen our argument is to carry on winning matches.''

Keighley have done precisely what the League is constantly urging clubs to do. They have rolled up their sleeves and galvanised the town to the point where they now attract 4,000 rather than 400 to their home games.

In playing terms, too, they have earned their place among the big boys, even if their ground - what used to be Lawkholme Lane in pre-Cougar days - would need extensive rebuilding to be brought up to Super League standards. The same could be said of the homes of a number of clubs who have been invited to sit around the rich man's table.

Huddersfield have no such problems. The Alfred McAlpine Stadium they share with the town's football club really is what their chairman, Bob Scott, claims: "The best rugby league facility in the northern hemisphere."

It is hard to see how the Super League could ignore McAlpine, especially when Huddersfield have so much else going for them. The Kirklees area has a big catchment for any successful club, Huddersfield are financially secure and - just as an unfashionable traditionalist afterthought - the town is the birthplace of the game.

Both Keighley and Huddersfield will fight on and there is considerably more to prove in their neck of the woods than at the top of the First Division, where Wigan will celebrate their sixth successive championship by resting a number of players, including their captain, Shaun Edwards, at Warrington.

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