Wales Rugby League Champions Valley Cougars have been promoted to the elite level of the community game, the Co-operative Conference National for the 2011 season.
The decision was made by the RFL after the success of the club over the last few seasons and this will give the Nelson-based club a higher level competition of Rugby League.
The Conference National is the division just below Co-operative Championship 1, the league that South Wales Scorpions take part in, and the Cougars will take on teams from all over the country, places like Hemel, Coventry, Gateshead, Warrington, Nottingham and Huddersfield.
Valley Cougars’ president and Wales Rugby League executive chairman Mark Rowley said: “We are delighted that the Rugby Football League have accepted our application to be promoted into the Conference National. It means that up and coming Rugby League players in Wales will have another step on the ladder to professional Rugby League.
“The Cougars will play in the division below South Wales Scorpions now and the two sides will have a strong link. Should a player excel at the Cougars then he may have a chance with the Scorpions and likewise if a Scorpions player finds himself out of the regular side or is recovering from injury then he will be able to turn out for the Cougars.
“And with the Scorpions having a similar arrangement of sorts with the Crusaders on the dual registration rule, we feel that a pathway for Rugby League players is looking more and more complete by the year.
“At the other end of the spectrum, if players at Welsh Conference Premier clubs have the ability to step up a level, the Cougars will give them that opportunity. It’s all exciting times for Rugby League in Wales.”
In 2011, the Cougars will become just the second Welsh club, after Cardiff Demons, to celebrate their tenth anniversary and Rowley feels that this promotion has come at the right time.
“We started off with junior sides thanks to the hard work from people like Andy Lindley and Colin Neale,” Rowley adds. “Then when the Welsh Conference started in 2003, we were one of the founder members. For the first few years we struggled but our success now, with two Welsh titles in the last three years, shows that you just have to stick at it to achieve success. We hope this will inspire other teams not to give up when the going gets tough.
“We have worked hard to represent Wales at this level and we’re determined to make it a success.”
The Cougars will also maintain their presence in the domestic Welsh Conference where they will field a reserve side.
CO-OPERATIVE RUGBY LEAGUE CONFERENCE NATIONAL 2011
Huddersfield Underbank Rangers