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.