Betfred Championship R1: Barrow vs Sheffield Preview
Sheffield Eagles will have their sights set on a perfect start to the new Betfred Championship season when they travel to Cumbria to face Barrow Raiders.
The Eagles endured a disappointing 2021 season, failing to capitalise on a flying start to the season which saw Sheffield enjoy big wins over play-off semi-finalists Bradford Bulls and the York City Knights.
After collecting a total of five wins last year, Mark Aston’s squad has seen a large turnover of players, with 15 new signings ready to represent Sheffield in 2022.
Reigning Betfred League One Club of the Year Barrow enjoyed a memorable 2021 which saw the Raiders win the race to automatic promotion from the third tier ahead of fellow Cumbrian outfit Workington Town, who were eventually promoted via the play-offs.
Barrow’s Tee Ritson finished as the league’s joint-top try-scorer, the winger crossed the whitewash 22 times in 17 games - including seven tries in the Raiders’ promotion clinching victory over West Wales Raiders. A fantastic year for Ritson was rounded off with a nomination for League One Player of the Year.
Paul Crarey’s side has enjoyed a good pre-season, earning victories over two Championship sides.
First Barrow saw off neighbours Workington in a 24-12 victory before they beat a new-look Newcastle Thunder 34-22, after initially trailing 12-22.
Crarey has been at the helm in Barrow since 2014 and he's strengthened his side ahead for the new season, welcoming Jarrod Sammut (London Broncos), Danny Langtree (Oldham), Josh Wood (Wakefield Trinity), Anton Iaria (Penrith Panthers), Ellis Gillam (Whitehaven) and Sam Brooks (Swinton Lions) to the Matt Prestige Stadium.
Key Battle – Anthony Thackeray | Jarrod Sammut
Despite an already talented squad, Barrow's main attacking threat will be expected to come through their eye-catching offseason signing Jarrod Sammut.
Sammut arrives in Cumbria from the capital after a third spell with London Broncos.
The vastly experienced half-back has heaps of talent and trickery and has displayed it with 8 clubs in the UK since his arrival at Crusaders in 2010 from NRL side Penrith Panthers.
The Eagles' talismanic figure Anthony Thackeray will look to one-up Sammut on his return to action after a turbulent 2021 season.
The former Featherstone playmaker’s year was disrupted by COVID and injuries and he will be wanting to put that behind him in 2022.
Thackeray enters his final season with the Eagles after announcing that he’ll retire from the sport at the end of the 2022 season.
The newly-appointed club captain will look to provide a few moments of magic in the season opener as Mark Aston's side look to put a poor 2021 season behind them ahead of their return to Sheffield in round eight of the Championship.
By Lewis Coleman, graphic by Alex Coleman