THERE is hardly a better way to make yourself feel settled in a professional rugby league environment than grabbing a game-deciding score.

That was exactly what happened for Barrow Raiders’ Ryan Johnston, who got the try in the dying minutes against Batley Bulldogs in May and set up Jamie Dallimore to kick the conversion which sealed a 20-18 win.

It was only the 20-year-old scrum-half’s fourth game in the Betfred Championship, having returned to the Raiders set-up from amateur club Dalton the previous month due to Lewis Charnock suffering a shoulder injury which ruled him out for most of the season.

Johnston went on to make a total of 15 appearances for Barrow in 2018, scoring two further tries, and even now he is taken aback by how quickly everything unfolded.

“It came as a bit of a whirlwind, really,” said Johnston. “At the start, when I was on the sidelines, I was thinking whether I would get a chance or not.

“Then, when Lewis unfortunately had a bad injury, (head coach) Paul Crarey gave me the nod and I thought ‘I’ve got nothing to lose here’.

“When I started playing, he kept me in and then in the game against Batley when I scored that try, I thought I’d settled myself in.

“When you have a few more games, you settle yourself into the team and feel more of a part of it, and it grew from there.”

Having made his professional bow in League One last year after becoming the first player to graduate from the Furness Raiders under-19s set-up to the professional ranks, Johnston returned to Dalton at the start of the year in a bid to get some game-time.

It was a big step up from playing in the Barrow & District League on a Friday night to being thrust into Championship action, but the Raiders’ senior players helped him make the transition.

“When you go from playing amateur rugby and you’re looking up seeing the likes of Gareth Hock, who we’ve signed for next year, it’s a bit daunting,” said Johnston.

“But when you’ve got players like Martin Aspinwall, Dalli and Nathan Mossop around you, they all brought me in and said ‘listen, just do what you have to do – do your job and it will all work out’.

“They’ve been a credit to Paul, and all the coaching staff this year. They’ve been great and I can’t thank Paul enough, and the board down at Barrow as well, for everything they’ve done for me.”

Johnston’s performances helped him earn a new two-year contract and he is eager to play a significant role in 2019 too.

“When you’re used to not playing, you become a little bit lazy in a way because you’re not playing,” said Johnston.

“But, all of a sudden, when you’re thrown in you think ‘it’s your time, this is what you’ve been waiting for and training for’.

“Next year, hopefully I can cement a place in the 17 or 18-man squad every week, that’s my goal.”