Why the Championship is perfect breeding ground for Super League stars

Drew Darbyshire
James Harrison Warrington Wolves Championship

The Championship is the perfect place to find yourself as a professional rugby league player, according to Warrington coach Daryl Powell.

Powell is no stranger to the second division, having coached Featherstone between 2008-13, winning 104 of his 137 games in charge of Rovers.

And this season his Warrington side have unearthed a gem in prop James Harrison. The 26-year-old linked up with the Wolves from Featherstone ahead of this season.

Harrison made 12 appearances for Powell’s side in 2022 after recovering from an ACL injury.

“I think Jimmy Harrison has been the find of the season,” Powell told Love Rugby League. “He’s had an ACL injury. He came back and straight away I thought he is going to be an outstanding player and I think we’ve seen that in every single game he plays.

“He’s got a good grounding in terms of where he has come from and his dad (Karl) was an outstanding rugby league player. Jimmy has got some good things going for him.”

WOLF: James Harrison likened to Alex Walmsley

Daryl Powell a big advocate of Championship rugby league

There are a number of players currently in Super League who have previously plied their trade in the Championship – Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Deon Cross (Salford) and Matty Ashton (Warrington) to name just a few.

“The Championship is a tough place to play rugby league, especially in the middle,” Powell said.

“Jamie Peacock went to Featherstone on loan and then went to play in Australia.

“Jimmy has had a pathway where he has bounced around a fair bit. I tried to sign him for two years at Castleford but we couldn’t get him out of his contract.

“There’s some really good places in the Championship. I coached there and it was good for me, so I think it is a good grounding for coaches.

“I signed Liam Finn for example, he was never the fastest half-back but he was quick between the ears and he knew exactly how to structure a game.

“There’s some really good players in the Championship… Alex Walmsley is another player who came through the Championship pathway. I think the Championship is really good for the development of most players.

“I’ve no hesitation in sending a young front-rower out to the Championship and saying ‘go and find out what it’s like to play rugby league’.”

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The Championship play-offs get underway on Sunday. Barrow welcome Batley to Cumbria, whilst York travel to Halifax. The winners of those matches will face big-hitters Leigh and Featherstone in the semi-finals the following week.

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