Two former Barrow rugby league players have passed away, with Billy Smith dying at the age of 80 and John Southward at the age of 73.

Smith was 33 years old when he signed for Barrow in 1973, an age when most players would have hung up their boots.

He was in retirement and working in the shipyard when the then-Barrow coach Frank Foster persuaded him to come to Craven Park.

Foster, who was into the throws of a ten-year spell as coach, wanted an experienced half-back to bring on the younger players, and he did a fine job partnering Dennis Jackson. In that one season, he played 24 games before finally calling it a day.

Smith was 18 when he signed for Workington from Wath Brow, but found it hard to displace household names in Harry Archer and Sol Roper from the side, playing just 60 games in a seven-year spell.

His best day came when he was called up for Cumberland and helped them to win the County championship title.

He then had two spells as coach with Millom and played in the side that took on Hunslet in the Challenge Cup before 3,000 spectators at Devonshire Road.

In his second spell at Millom, he gave a debut to a 17-year-old kid who was to become a great servant to the Woolybacks, Craig Evans.

The now chairman of the club said “He was a good coach with great man-management skills. My brother Kenny said he was ten years ahead of his time.

“Billy was also a big friend of my dad Peter and he passed away on dad’s 81st birthday. Whenever there is talk about Millom, Billy’s name always crops up”

Billy also had spells at Workington and Whitehaven before ending his coaching days Egremont. A works injury forced him to turn his back on the game after 40 years of great service.

John Southward signed aged 21 from Wath Brow and was a talented loose forward, making his full debut in the away game at Dewsbury in 1967, when Barrow played their entire ‘A’ team, a week prior to meeting again the following week in the semi-final of the Challenge cup which they won to book a trip to Wembley.

His stay was unfortunately brief, with a serious shoulder injury forcing him into retirement at the age of 22 after just 14 appearances.