In the latest of a new series as a part of our match preview line-up, we will be looking at 5 players in the opposition line-up to look out for once they take to the field against the Cougars at the weekend.
We move on to the next edition of the ‘Ones To Watch’ series with Sunday’s opponents at Cougar Park, the West Wales Raiders.
Veteran Welsh international Ashley Bateman is now into the third season of his third spell with the club.
A product of the Crusaders during their time in Super League, the versatile Bateman can play in a number of positions which prove him to be a vital utility to Head Coach Aaron Wood and his side.
Beginning his career playing for the Crusaders Colts feeder side, the Crusaders signed Ashley to professional terms in 2009 ahead of their first season in the Super League.
Making his debut against Castleford towards the back end of that season, he would also earn his first international caps for Wales that autumn and would score in every game as they defeated Serbia, Ireland, and Scotland, to win the European Cup.
He would then depart to sign with the South Wales Scorpions, who are now the Raiders, following the Crusaders decision to relocate north to Wrexham.
During his first spell with the club, he would make over 100 appearances for South Wales, and the first season he had with the Scorpions would prove to be the most successful in the club’s history as under the stewardship of Anthony Siebold, they finished 6th and qualified for the play-offs.
His performances would earn a second call-up for Wales, and he made two appearances for his nation during the 2014 European Cup, but a three-year absence from the sport would follow.
Returning to Rugby League in 2017, Bateman would re-join the now South Wales Ironmen for a brief spell before joining the Coventry Bears midway through that season, where he would remain until the end of the 2018 season.
Following his departure from the Bears, he would relocate back to Llanelli and join the now branded West Wales Raiders for his third spell with the club and has remained at Stebonheath Park ever since.
To date, Bateman has made just short of 130 appearances for the Raiders across his three spells with the club with his reputation as a club legend secured.
Utility back Jamie Murphy is back in Rugby League for a second spell with the West Wales Raiders, joining ahead of this season following a stint back in Rugby Union.
A dual-code international with Wales in Rugby League and Germany in Rugby Union, Murphy offers cover in any position across the backline as shown this season by featuring on both the wing and in the halves in his two appearances to date.
Born and raised in Bridgend, Jamie has vast experience across both codes and scored his first try of the season on Sunday against Barrow.
In Rugby League, the back first signed with the South Wales Scorpions before being picked by Crusaders midway through the 2010 campaign as they played their final two seasons in Super League prior to folding and reforming as North Wales.
Following the Wrexham club’s financial woes, Murphy would return to the Scorpions and become a mainstay of the club for a number of years as they maintained competitive in the third tier before returning to Rugby Union with his hometown club.
From Bridgend he would join the Ospreys, and Murphy would make three senior appearances for the club in the Anglo-Welsh Cup before going on to have spells across the leagues back with Bridgend before also going on to join Newport and Aberavon.
He would return to Rugby League with the All Golds before a further spell with the Scorpions ahead of making another transition back to Union, signing with Bridgend once more as well as attempting to help Germany reach the Rugby Union World Cup despite being a youth international with Wales in the other code.
Following the Covid pandemic bringing a temporary halt to lower-level Rugby Union both sides of the border, Jamie would once again return to Rugby League and sign with the West Wales Raiders ahead of the current season.
And despite being sent off on his debut against Widnes in the Challenge Cup, he returned from suspension with a try-scoring performance in last Sunday’s defeat to Barrow.
Bringing size, aggression, and physicality, to the West Wales pack, Sam Herron has shown in previous meetings against the Cougars that he is a forward that can provide a serious threat.
The Scotland international has to date had one of Rugby League’s more interesting career paths but will provide an immediate danger to the Keighley pack on Sunday.
And on top of that, the Falkirk born forward is also known for his speed despite his size and a quick glance at his career highlights will show his eye for a long distance try out of the pack.
A prop forward by trade, Herron made his name on the junior international stage having played for Scotland at Under 18’s, Under 19’s, Student, and ‘A’ level.
Having switched to Rugby League and playing the student game whilst completing his education, after beginning his career playing Rugby Union back home for Falkirk, the forward would head to Australia and link up with Mittagong in the New South Wales Group 6 Competition.
Following his stint in Australia, he would take the unusual route of arriving in Serbia to sign with the upstart Red Star Belgrade club.
During his time in the Balkans, Herron would establish himself as a key member of a Red Star squad that as well as winning numerous titles would make history and compete in the Challenge Cup where they were defeated by Millom in the First Round.
However, ahead of the 2019 season he would return home to the UK and become one a raft of new faces that were brought in by the West Wales club ahead of their second professional season and has called Llanelli home ever since.
The highly touted promising Welsh youngster Ewan Badham is back home for the 2021 season, re-joining his former club on a season-long loan from Hull FC.
Ewan, along with twin brother Ieuan, are both products of the West Wales Raiders junior system with both impressing at a young age to be signed and moved north to join the academy at Hull FC.
A prop forward by trade, Ewan would impress at a young age for both the Raiders and his school, Milford Haven Comprehensive, sides and catch the eye of the Black and Whites scouting network.
He would become one of eight of the Raiders youth players to sign with FC across various age groups and headed to Humberside touted as a future star of the game in Wales.
Arriving for the 2018 season, Ewan would feature for the academy side as well as continuing his education both in terms of school and rugby as a part of the Hull FC college side.
Following a stellar first season, he would continue to impress for both the Airlie Birds reserves side and college team throughout both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Badham was rewarded with a professional contract at the club.
However, with the cancellation of the Reserves Championship as a result of the Covid pandemic, Ewan and his brother were both sent out on season long loans to their boyhood club and have established themselves as regulars in the Raiders side so far this season.
Welsh international Joe Burke joined the West Wales Raiders ahead of this season following a couple of years away from Rugby League.
Bringing size and experience to the Raiders pack, the signing of Burke despite his absence from the game was seen as one of many statements of intent ahead of the current year by the Llanelli based outfit.
Born in Newport, the prop first broke onto the Rugby League scene as a 20-year-old with the South Wales Scorpions.
During his four seasons with the Scorpions, Burke would become a pivotal figure as they reached the League One play-offs under the stewardship of Anthony Siebold and continued to impress in the seasons that followed Siebold’s departure.
His impressive performances caught the eye of the traditional heartland clubs, and in 2014 he made the move along with teammate Nathan Mossop to Cumbria to sign with the Barrow Raiders.
Despite the Raiders relegation that season, Joe’s performances impressed once more and earned him international recognition when he was selected to play for Wales in that year’s European Cup.
An 18-month spell with the North Wales Crusaders followed, in which time he would again feature for his country in the European Cup, before he headed back across the border to sign with Oldham following their promotion to the Championship.
Despite Oldham’s relegation in 2017, and a subsequent play-off defeat to Bradford in the 2018 League One end of season shootout, Burke was a regular for his club and was again rewarded on the global stage as John Kear selected him as a member of the Wales squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Following the conclusion of the 2018 season, he would leave Whitebank and have a brief spell in Rugby Union before returning to the game, and his first club, ahead of the 2021 season when he was recruited by the Raiders as they looked to become a more competitive force within the division.
By Joshua Chapman