Championship Preview: Barrow Raiders

Last Season: 1st, Champions

Last season the Raiders became the first team in recent to history to win two league titles, in two competitions, two years in a row. The disappointment of coming up just short in the Northern Rail Cup was banished with a thrilling grand final victory over early-season favourites Halifax, just 12 months after sealing promotion from National League Two.

Dave Clark has overseen both title triumphs, despite being temporarily replaced by Steve Deakin in a bizarre mid-season twist. Clark was demoted to the role of assistant coach and replaced by Deakin in June, only for the ex-Oldham boss to leave club after just six weeks in charge.

Clark, who’s the first to admit his inexperience as a head coach, will make way for a new name at the helm in 2010. Steve McCormack, who has enjoyed successful spells with Whitehaven and Gateshead in recent years, will take responsibility for delivering the third consecutive season of success at Craven Park that club chairman and benefactor Des Johnston will expect.

The uncertainty over the coaching position at Craven Park during 2009 did little to derail the Barrow bandwagon. Mid-season recruit Jamie Rooney guided his new team-mates around the park brilliantly during the latter stages of the league season and into the play-offs – his experience and tactical awareness giving the Raiders the slight edge over their title rivals in the big games.

Andy Ellis was another player in exhilarating form for Barrow last season and the wily hooker will be a huge loss to the club, having been snapped up for 2010 by Harlequins. Despite spending just three seasons with the club, Ellis’ role in the Raiders’ resurgence will live long in the memories of supporters. The former Hull KR man was named Championship player of the year and has every chance of making the grade in Super League this season.

Gateshead’s Andrew Henderson is the player charged with filling Ellis’ number 9 jersey, after following coach McCormack, and fellow Thunder star Michael Knowles, to Craven Park. The vastly experienced Richard Fletcher has also been brought in from Widnes to strengthen an already formidable looking Barrow pack, led heroically in 2009 by club stalwart Brett McDermott.

The club’s biggest signing for 2010, however, is undoubtedly Jamie Rooney. The ex-Wakefield star has signed a two year contract with the club and will be the player around which the Raiders will build their bid for a Super League spot in 2012.

With the lethal left-flank combination of Liam Harrison and James Nixon providing the finishing touch, and the likes of Andreas Bauer and Paul Broadbent giving the Raiders a further attacking dimension, Barrow will be aiming to hit the ground running and show the rest of the division that they’re not going to give up their trophy without a fight.

Key-Man: Jamie Rooney
2010 Prediction: 2nd, GF Runners-Up

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