AT THE last board meeting we brought in the coaching team and management with a view to working on the aspirations of the club on the pitch.

We had set ourselves several targets for the 2020 season and despite the COVID pandemic we had achieved most of our goals around team success with the big exception being promotion back to the Championship. Clearly, as we put together our plan for 2021, that goal is repeated.

We are conscious, however, that as well as achieving promotion we want to provide opportunities for our young players to come through.

There is little point running our JETS programme for 11-16-year olds and then our Furness Raiders side, signing a conveyor belt of talent and not giving them a chance. It is important to the club that the likes of Adam Ford, Connor Terrill and Jake Carter get thrown into games, as it is only when they are out there that we can see if they can make the step up.

Hopefully, they will take their chance and if they do then the club hopes that this local talent can earn themselves longer term contracts. If they fail to make the grade, then we hope that they are better for the experience and we can direct them back to the community clubs and they still have an opportunity to enjoy a long career in our great game.

By giving these opportunities we are hoping that the message is sent out to the emerging talent that there is a pathway to the professional game with Barrow Raiders.

During our discussions we acknowledged what a tremendous job has been done at the Furness Raiders under the management of Keith Nutter and the coaching of firstly Darren Carter and then latterly Dave Cairns.

In the medium team we discussed plans to strengthen those pathways to the first team and whilst the finances aren’t in place at the moment we acknowledged that either an Academy or Reserves team would be desired to complement the Furness Raiders team.

There is no reason why the best of the local talent should be heading down the M6 to St.Helens, Wigan and Warrington if Barrow Raiders could also develop an Academy team to match those teams. Myself and Steve Rea, who was in the meeting, both played Colts rugby and we would regularly go toe to toe and beat those types of team and I remember Steve and Les Quirk both forcing their way in to the Great Britain team at that level.

The added advantage of course with the Reserves is that we can give our fringe players game time, and keep their interest, but we would expect the majority of the squad to be made up of players in their late teens.

In the current era, with no reserves, I would imagine it would be incredibly frustrating to twiddle your thumbs week after week with no game time.

The Furness Raiders college team would then be made up by the majority of players at the bottom end of the age group but it is hoped we could provide some quality coaching straight from mini-rugby through those important late teen years and then the players would either find a place in the professional game or return much stronger to the community clubs.