Loxam happy to be thrown to Wolves with Barrow Raiders

Thrown to the wolves: Tom Loxam in action for Barrow Raiders against Toronto Wolfpack in May ALEX DADDESE
Thrown to the wolves: Tom Loxam in action for Barrow Raiders against Toronto Wolfpack in May ALEX DADDESE
11 September 2017 4:52PM

THERE was a time when young men were enticed to join the Navy by the prospect of seeing the world, although former Royal Marine Tom Loxam is doing plenty of that in his rugby career as well.

Having represented the Great Britain Armed Forces team in Australia while still serving, the three-quarter is now back in Canada with the Barrow Raiders squad for this evening’s match at Toronto Wolfpack.

Loxam was among the members of the Raiders squad which became only the second team in Kingstone Press League One to cross the Atlantic to visit rugby league’s North American frontier in May .

It was quite a difference for Loxam from representing his country in rugby league-mad Brisbane to playing for his club in a city where the sport comes a very distant second to basketball, baseball and ice hockey – among others. And while a 70-2 defeat for Raiders is a memory the squad are keen to banish, Loxam is relishing the prospect of stepping out onto the field at Lamport Stadium, where a 7,000-plus crowd were in attendance last time.

Last time, the crowd gave us a hard time which was good and something we all still have a laugh about at training, but it was good. TOM LOXAM

“I went to Australia with the Great Britain Armed Forces and played at Suncorp (Stadium), and Australia is different because it’s rugby league through and through,” said Loxam.

“When we were in Toronto, it was certainly more the Toronto Blue Jays and memorabilia like that. Last time, the crowd gave us a hard time, which was good and something we all still have a laugh about at training, but it was good.

“They had a good crowd there last time and even without the scoreline on the day, it’s a tough place to go because they’ve got a good following out there. The game is growing and progressing out there, so I think it’s a good thing, but it’s just getting the time off work for the lads.”

It is the likes of top try-scorers Declan Hulme and Shane Toal being unable to get time off work for the return to Toronto which has opened the door for Loxam to play his first game for Barrow since the 20-10 win away to London Skolars in June.

Not that he did not have his own work commitments to take care of before flying out. Indeed, he was working until late on Wednesday evening to finish off a job with employers Optech Electrical, where he recently started, working alongside team-mate Lewis Charnock.

Retraining as an electrician has helped his adjustment back into civilian life after leaving the Marines last year, and he has been able to forge a career in professional rugby following a successful trial with Raiders.

It has required patience to wait for the chance to add to his five starts so far, which include the League One Cup final triumph over North Wales Crusaders.

But Loxam has been working away in the background, doing extra skills practise and additional fitness work with conditioner Paul Taylor, as well as utilising some of the skills learned while in the military.

“I’ve taken traits from the Marines I’ve been able to transfer, but mostly it’s staying positive, being patient and waiting for the opportunity – and training hard when I know I’m not going to be playing for a while,” said Loxam.

“Being in the lucky position to be in a squad like Barrow have this year, I’m learning every training session from the players and Paul.

“I feel like I’m developing all of the time and it’s been frustrating at times not being on the pitch, but with the lads on the pitch playing so well I have to be patient and wait for my turn to come.”

It was a back injury suffered by Andy Litherland which saw Loxam earn an opportunity to face Toronto last time out, having originally travelled as 18th man.

He was already on a steep learning curve, having switched to rugby league from football in his early-20s while in the Marines, never mind coming up against full-time players with Super League and NRL experience in only his third professional outing.

Yet he earned plaudits from Raiders head coach Paul Crarey for his performance and has learned everything he was exposed to taking on the likes of Craig Hall and Fuifui Moimoi.

That previous trip provided the entire Barrow squad with plenty of lessons and they return to Toronto aiming to put those into action – and maybe even spoil the party which will see the Wolfpack crowned Kingstone Press League One champions if they win.

“It seemed a bit of a whirlwind (in May), but I think we’re more prepared for it and I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and getting stuck in,” said Loxam.

“Putting a few wrongs right will be good this time and it’s good to get the opportunity. We feel like we owe them one from last time.”

* Supporters can watch the match tonight live on Freeview channel 95.

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