New Zealander Joe Grima came to Keighley Cougars before the 1992-3 season after distinguished careers with Swinton and Widnes culminating in what he remembers as a memorable World Club Challenge victory with The Chemics over Canberra Raiders in 1989-90. Keighley had been for years a selling club. Any player who showed any promise was not expected to remain at Lawkholme very long, and we saw a stream of players such as Terry Manning and Owen Simpson leave the club. The signing of one of League’s top players in Grima was the catalyst which kick-started a tremendous era in the club’s history which then saw other great players come to the club.
Joe led the club both on and off the field. His enormous presence took the club into places in the community it had never been before. Strangely for a Rugby League town like Keighley, the game was hardly played in local schools. The club, led by Joe, rectified this and soon Cougar Cubs teams were set up with age ranges from under 8 to under 18. With the club’s improving fortunes local youngsters began to feel pride in belonging to Keighley and supporting their home town team and allied with this the club promoted an anti-drug and crime campaign. This resulted in juvenile crime locally dropping 13% against a National trend. Joe came up with the club’s P.A.W.E. (Personal Award for Excellence) scheme which brought together local organisations and businesses and took deserving youngsters on outward bound trips and one of his outstanding projects was taking 1,000 local youngsters on a day trip to Wembley for a Rugby League International against New Zealand.
Joe freely admits that he didn’t score that many tries but his leadership on the field took the club through the 1992-3 campaign playing in 22 out of 24 league games and scoring 5 touchdowns. Cougars lost only three games out of the 24 and the season climaxed in a memorable Good Friday 34-10 victory over Batley at Cougar Park to clinch the Third Division Championship and the first silverware at the club since 1903. Joe remembers with a smile that he didn’t play a large part in that particular match but there was no more deserving person to lift the Third Division trophy at the end of the game to cap an incredible season.
Although Joe only played at Cougars for two seasons none of the success of that spell or what came after would have been possible without the tremendous groundwork he put in.