FOR a young player trying to make their way as a professional athlete in any sport, being told you are not being retained by a club where you have progressed through the youth system to senior level is a devastating blow.

Jake Spedding knows all too well what that feels like, having been told before the end of the 2018 season by Super League side St Helens that his services were no longer required.

Fast forward several months though and Spedding has rediscovered his enjoyment of playing rugby league after moving into the part-time game with Barrow Raiders, while holding down a day-job as a financial advisor.

Aged just 22, the Leeds-born three-quarter is still more than capable of following in the footsteps of the likes of Joe Bullock and returning to Super League after impressing at Craven Park.

And, after speaking with Raiders head coach Paul Crarey and chairman Steve Neale prior to signing a deal last September, it was an easy decision for him to make the move to Cumbria.

“Coming from Saints, I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Spedding. “I’m really happy here playing my rugby and that’s the main thing for me – I’ve got a smile back on my face playing rugby.

“I knew I was going to be leaving Saints and I had to make a decision. I spoke to Paul and Steve, and after I had that chat it was quite an easy decision for me.

“It didn’t take me long before I signed at all; he told me what they’d done with Joe and other players, and I was excited to get started.”

It has not all been plain sailing for Spedding since joining Barrow, with his debut in the pre-season defeat to Betfred League One side Oldham perhaps being one to forget.

But he has not looked back since then and was one of several stand-out performers for the Raiders in last Sunday’s 22-18 win away to Batley Bulldogs, capping his performance with two tries – one of which was voted Championship try of the week – as the visitors ended a run of 18 years without a win at Mount Pleasant.

“Coming from the friendlies, we built our way,” said Spedding. “We all know we were poor against Oldham, then we slowly got better week by week.

“We went really well against Wigan and the pitch probably got us a really physical battle, which is what we needed for the season.

“I thought we really gave it to Batley; we hung on in there when we needed to and playing up the hill first half, we found a way to get in at half time with a chance of getting a result.

“In the second half, we completed high and put them in some bad spots.”

Tomorrow will see Spedding up against some old friends when Barrow host Sheffield Eagles in their first game of the new Championship season.

He enjoyed two productive spells with the South Yorkshire club in 2017 and 2018, including playing three times against the Raiders last year.

But while he is grateful to Eagles head coach Mark Aston for giving him an opportunity, his loyalties are with Barrow now.

“It will be nice to see some familiar faces,” said Spedding. “I’ve been in and out of Sheffield for two or three years now on dual-registration and loans.

“Mark Aston gave me my first chance in the Championship, so it will be good to see all of them and say hello, but hopefully we’ll get the two points.”