The following statement is being issued on the behalf of James Feather by Keighley Cougars.
Keighley Cougars Club Captain James ‘Buster’ Feather has announced he is to retire at the conclusion of the current season after 15 years with the club.
James joined the club in 2003 and went on to make his senior debut in a 2006 Northern Rail Cup defeat away at Oldham Roughyeds before being appointed captain by Barry Eaton the following season after the retirement of Phil Stephenson.
Feather in the past decade has captained the club on 247 different occasions and led the side through two promotions in 2009 and 2011, relegations in 2010 and 2014, administration in 2010 and the tragic death of Danny Jones in 2015.
In that time Buster has made 304 appearances for Keighley Cougars and has scored 62 tries including hat-tricks in the emotionally charged home victory over Coventry Bears in May 2015 and again against the Hemel Stags later that year.
He has also played under 4 different head coaches and recently passed the milestone of playing alongside 200 different teammates.
Feather said: “It’s something I’ve been toying with all year to be honest since pre-season as I’ve found it hard to keep myself in condition.
“I’ve gone self-employed by setting up my own business and it’s been really tough especially going back into the building trade.
“But the biggest thing for me is that I’ve found it harder than I’ve ever found it before and it’s been tough to keep myself fit and as sharp as the others because when I’m out on the field I feel okay but there’s certain stuff I’m missing.
“There might be a tackle that I know in the past I could have got to or there would be half a gap that I know I could have got through and little things like that mean a lot to me as I’m a percentage type of player and I know I could have made 30 or 40 tackles a game.
“But now I’m only making 20 tackles a game and that breaks my heart so that’s the reason I’m going to retire.
“This has been the hardest decision in the world and I want to play on forever but I feel the sport is cruel as if you play snooker or darts as a kid you can play well into your fifties and earn good money from it.
“But for us as professional Rugby League players you’ve got a ten year stint I’d say if you’re lucky to be mostly injury free which I have been but the sport is cruel, you get a short period and you train all your life from when you’re 8 years old and you play for the reserves and break into the first team and then one day you’re career is over because you’re too old.
“I have to give a quick mention to Craig Lingard too, I wish he would have been brought in sooner which is no disrespect to Paul March because Marchy is a good coach but I feel that I have learnt a lot from Craig and he could have developed me further as a player.
“I did speak to Craig at the start of this year and told him that I could give him two more years but as the year has gone on I can’t see myself doing another year playing as well as I know that I can do and I don’t want to be one of them players who is 18th or 19th man every week.
“When I spoke to Craig about my decision to retire he was keen to keep me on as a part of his coaching staff but in a different role as more of a step into the back coach to allow me to learn as I’m not in a position to coach anyone at the moment.
“I would be setting myself up to fail by going straight into coaching and I have to learn my trade first and Craig is a really good coach and the Cougars are in good hands with him and will take us forward and I’m really looking forward to learning from him.
“I’m going to venture out a little bit too as I have friends at other clubs and I want to oversee what other clubs do as Keighley Cougars is all I’ve ever known and it will be good to see how other clubs operate aside from the Cougars.
“I know I’m leaving the captaincy in good hands with Rawlo and Mike Emmett, Brendon is a really good Club Captain as he leads from the front and does all the right things and he always has done since he’s been with the club and of course is a really good friend of mine and has learnt a lot.
“Mike Emmett is a real leader and he is a player’s leader as all the players look up to Mike and he’s a lad’s lad which is really important when you’re being a captain and he is a real professional, he trains hard and looks after himself away from the club and the players are in good hands with Mike Emmett.
“Out of all the memories, Jonesy passing away is the one that will always be with me as he was the man who made me the player I am today as I was the 9 and he was the 6 and he bossed me around the field so I owe a lot of my career to Danny.
“I have to mention the coaches too as they’ve always picked me and I’ve played over 300 games for the club and the game that stands out is the 2011 Grand Final as I even scored a try two weeks after I’d had surgery because JD gave me the nod and is the game I will always watch back over and over on DVD.
“The other game that stands out is the Coventry game a week after Jonesy died as I scored a hat-trick and I’d never scored a hat-trick since I was 8 years old and to do it in front of Lizzie and the twins and that crowd, it felt like Danny was looking down on me that afternoon.
“I have to offer my thanks to so many people over the years including my coaches and teammates at Cougars Cubs, Keighley Albion and the Cougars and obviously my friends, family and my wife Gina who has been fully supportive of me throughout my entire career as I don’t feel sometimes people appreciate that we’re away from our wives and families four times a week and they’re at home waiting for us.
“I also have to thank my sponsors David & Margaret Proctor as they are two of the most selfless people you could ever wish to meet and what they gave me in my testimonial was amazing and they have sponsored me throughout my entire career and have put money behind me and really pushed it and they’re amazing people and really grateful.
“Hopefully me and the boys can push on now in the Eights and finish the season and my career on a high.”
We can confirm that Head Coach Craig Lingard has offered James a position on his coaching staff for the 2018 season and that Buster has accepted the role and will move into the backroom team following his retirement at the end of this season.
Everyone associated with the Keighley Cougars would like to thank Buster for his 15 years of loyal service to the club and we are extremely proud of everything he has accomplished for the club and have no doubt that he will one day be inducted into the Cougars Hall of Fame.