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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Captain Harrison signs new Barrow Raiders deal

THE biggest talking point of Barrow Raiders’ close season has been resolved – Liam Harrison is staying at Craven Park.

Liam Harrison
NEW DEAL: Liam Harrison has signed on for Barrow Raiders for 2013

The will-he, won’t-he sign saga reached a happy outcome with the talismanic leader penning a fresh one-year deal.

Inspirational skipper Harrison’s professional career has been hanging in the balance in recent weeks, as he faced a huge decision over his future.

Changes to his work life at BAE Systems and weekly college commitments left the pack ace torn. But he has made his mind up to play in Raiders’ new Championship campaign, feeling he can balance his working and sporting lives.

Harrison knew that at the age of 28 he didn’t want to retire from the game, and despite overtures from Whitehaven and Workington, his priority was always his hometown club Barrow Raiders.

Looking forward to the 2013 Championship campaign, Harrison said: “I appreciate it’s going to be a big step-up next year. A few of the players including myself have endured some tough times with the rugby over the last couple of years, so while the club is going forward and building it would be stupid not to be a part of it.

“I am looking forward to the next challenge, playing in the league that we should never have really fallen out of.”

Harrison set last season alight with his blockbusting performances and was named RL World Championship One Player-of-the-Year, as well as Evening Mail Player-of-the-Year, Supporters’ Player-of-the-Year and Players’ Player-of-the-Year, and he also collected the Yorkie Coyle Memorial Shield at the club’s end-of-year awards night.

Coach Darren Holt is delighted his skipper has inked a new deal, saying: “It’s good news.

“I don’t think there is anybody who won’t be very happy that he has decided to stay on, not only after his performances last year but the stature he has in the club.

“I am sure both the players, coaches and supporters will be very happy that he has decided to stay with us.

“He is solid and dependable, he plays most games, he very rarely has a below-par performance.

“But more than that he’s had some standout performances, and in his first season in the forward pack. Going into next year I think it’s going to be tougher, but I think he has got all the attributes to be one of the standout back row forwards in the Championship.

“Obviously he is the key piece to our jigsaw of what is the squad, and coaching staff, and everybody will be just happy that he is back on board again.”

Harrison said he felt a bit embarrassed about the fuss over whether he would sign or not, and he is now looking forward to the start of the new campaign.

He said: “If my degree suffered that would affect my career and I wanted to make sure I could give my time to my work.

“I don’t like missing (training) sessions and I am comfortable I can manage both.

“It wasn’t really a massive decision but I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t biting off more than I could chew.

“With going up a league everything seems to be stepping up in my life at the minute.

“I am nearing the end of a degree that I need to focus on, I am doing a new role at the shipyard, which requires a bit more getting my head round, so it was just making sure I was happy with everything.

“I knew that I didn’t want to retire. It was never a question of me not wanting to play, it was about being prudent about it really and making sure that everything kind of works well together. I am glad there is a bit of closure on the matter now.

“I had spoken to the other Cumbrian clubs but my priority would be Barrow. It is flattering to have interest from other clubs, but given the circumstances, travelling as well, that wouldn’t have helped me.

“I am very happy that I had the opportunity to play for Barrow, but nothing really swayed me, it was just really making sure that I could keep a nice balance with everything.

“We have made some good signings so we should have a bit of strength there.”

Raiders Director of Rugby Andy Gaffney said of the club captain: “Liam is grateful to the club for giving him the time to consider his future and we are absolutely thrilled that he has finally decided to continue playing.

“Liam is a major player for the club and as a captain has always led by example.

“He is an excellent role model for youngsters watching the team and is a firm favourite of every single supporter.”

Harrison is among the nominees for the annual Barrow Borough Sports Council awards which are being held at The Forum tonight (see page 37).

He is in the running for the Sports Person Of The Year category, along with boxing sensation Liam Conroy, past winner Dean Kelly, who, once again did tremendously well in the National Dwarf Championships, and snooker ace Kyle Brown.

lBarrow Raiders have confirmed their first friendly of the New Year will take place against Whitehaven at Craven Park on Sunday, January 20 (kick-off 2pm).

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