BARROW Island stalwart of many decades John Jefferson was close to tears last Saturday when a new pitch was officially named in his honour, with the Rating Lane ground now known as the John Jefferson Park

The newly laid pitch took over eleven years in the making, with John the leading light along with a band of other club officials and volunteers..

Obstacles came before them, but their hard work has paid off with an immaculate level playing surface.

During the after match presentations against Egremont, former coach Joe Elliott sprung the surprise on John by unveiling the board, which will be erected at the entrance gate.

John, also known as 'Mr Barrow Island', said: “I was gobsmacked, I never saw it coming, but it is a great honour.

"A couple of years ago I suggested that we change the welcome to Rating Lane board, which had seen better years - I had a sponsor in mind, but Joe and the late Chris Johnson told me: 'It's all in hand, leave it to us.'

"I would like to thank the many sponsors over the years along with family and volunteers who without them we wouldn't function."

There were video clips shown at the opening from former Leeds and Great Britain captain Kevin Sinfield, who John coached at Lancaster as a 16-year-old, also Sky TV pundit Barrie McDermott and St Helens stars Kyle Amor and Morgan Knowles, who is a Barrow Island product.

John has been involved in rugby league for nearly 60 years, starting his career with Barrow Island Under 19s as a 17-year-old. He progressed to the open age team before having a spell with the Brittania.

He then returned to the Island where his coaching career began, taking over the Under 11s ,before having a spell as assistant coach with Barrow Raiders under Paul Kavanagh in 1991-92 seasons.

While with Barrow he witnessed his son-in-law skipper Neil Shaw take a Man of the Match award during a cup tie with Keighley.

John's grandson, Ryan, currently plays for Paul Crarey's side.