A Super League place beckons for a Championship club in 2012.
And with the 2009 Championship campaign one of the most enthralling ever, RFL chairman Richard Lewis, can’t ignore applications to the big time. Crowds and TV viewing figures were a record high this year and the RFL supremo has recently expressed his belief that a Championship club can obtain the dream ticket to Super League.
Widnes Vikings and Barrow Raiders have already set their sights on exciting trips to Knowsley Road, Odsal, and the DW Stadium after meeting the application criteria. Their success in the Northern Rail Cup and Co-operative Championship enables them to start drawing up ambitious plans for the big time. Halifax, as Championship Grand Finalists, have also already ticked the on-field criteria.
The Raiders’ success however, now raises the issue of a Cumbrian club in Super League. Yes the topic has rumbled on for quite some time now, but the potential market for a Super League license in Cumbria is one that needs to be addressed.
Broadcasting giants, Sky Sports have packed no punches on this matter with pundits Mike Stephenson “Stevo” and former Leeds prop, Barrie McDermott adding their weight to claims for a Cumbrian club in the top flight.
The RFL have continuously reiterated their support for the Celtic Crusaders as the game struggles to prosper in Wales. How they expect to spread the game to a rugby union mad country is an ambitious plan. It may be time for the RFL to look to the Lake District for the game to flourish.
Love him or loathe him, chairman, Des Johnston, “the godfather” of Craven Park has moulded the Cumbrian’s into a formidable outfit as he pursues the “holy grail” that is Super League. The charismatic businessman is determined to bring the glory days back to Barrow.
The capture of former Wakefield star Jamie Rooney on a permanent deal and influential hooker Andrew Henderson, from Gateshead, has signalled Mr Johnson’s intentions of awakening this sleeping giant.
The appointment of ex-Widnes and Whitehaven boss Steve McCormack to the helm, gives the club added experience and assurance as they look to fulfil their goals.
Barrow had a magnificent season. Their epic 26-18 play-off final victory against Halifax at the Halliwell Jones Stadium was an outstanding achievement for a club that has bore the brunt of many rival supporters over the years. The hard times of the 1990’s and early 2000’s are safely behind the Raiders with the emergence of talented locals such as speedy wingman James Nixon and crafty half back, Liam Campbell.
Youth development and stadium improvement remains the focus for the backroom staff as the Super League applications loom ever closer.