Barrow Raiders placed fifth in the Championship in 2022, an incredible achievement for a side that had just been promoted from League One, and they’re aiming for greatness again in 2023.
For last season’s achievements their head coach, Paul Crarey, earned the title of Championship coach of the year and it was partly with thanks to young half-back Ryan Johnston.
Johnston extended his stay at Barrow, with whom he has played for since 2017, n November but the club already have plenty of talent in that spot including former Super League player Jared Sammut and Barrow-born Jake Carter.
The addition of St Helens talented youngster, Ellis Archer, has only added to that depth which is something that Johnston claims has helped drive standards and lead to him having a successful pre-season.
Speaking to the club website, Johnston said: “No-one is irreplaceable, and that’s credit to Paul Crarey and the coaching staff for putting in a system where everyone can play.
“It keeps the environment healthy and competitive, and I’m a firm believer that if you’re playing well enough, no matter what your name is, you deserve a shot in the team.
“Personally, I’ve had one of my best pre-seasons ever. I’m injury-free now and feel like I’m starting to play my best rugby again.
“Having the likes of young Ellis Archer, Jake Carter and Jarrod alongside you keeps you wanting to do well and not cut corners.
“Hopefully this year I’ll give Cresta no reason to drop me. I want to play every match this season.”
Johnston has already featured in pre-season, scoring in their large victory over North Wales Crusaders, and could go again when facing Cumbrian rival Workington Town before Challenge Cup winners Wigan Warriors make the trip to Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium.
Johnson further commented on the depth that the addition of Archer has brought to the Championship side and how that worked during their last game against North Wales.
“We had four different half-backs and three different hookers so sometimes you do lose a bit of structure, but to score 52 points against a well-drilled side was pleasing.
“Ultimately these results mean nothing, so it gives us the perfect opportunity to trial new combinations and get things right ahead of those money rounds.”