Ed Barber is confident Huddersfield YMCA have the ability to make a big impression in National III North.
The Laund Hill skipper celebrated his 24th birthday last Saturday by leading the club to North I East play-off promotion glory with a 29-19 victory over Birkenhead Park.
It elevated YMCA to national level for the first time in their history and capped a remarkable rise from the bottom of Yorkshire II with three promotions in four seasons.
This is a special time for Outlane-based Barber, because he’s been associated with the club since the age of five and has grown up alongside many of the team who staged a thrilling fightback from 19-9 down at Upper Park to give YM arguably the best day in their history.
“It’s going to be a tough season for us next time, no doubt about that, but we’ll just have to dig deep like we have done over the last few years and see how we go,” explained Barber, whose switch from inside centre to fly half in the play-off was instrumental in YM’s win.
“We are a young set of lads, but we have most definitely got the ability to compete at National level. Our aim in the first instance will be to stay up and then we’ll build from there.
“Everyone involved knows the game plan we work to at YM and while there are still improvements that can be made, we’ve definitely got the ability to push on and see how far we can go.”
Barber – who works for Triline Contracts, installing stainless steel catering equipment – says YM won’t be found wanting for fitness or commitment in National III North, the division just won by Huddersfield RUFC.
“It was a great feeling to come from 10 points down to win the play-off, and that shows what we are about,” he explained.
“We didn’t have the best first half at Birkenhead – I certainly didn’t personally – and that was disappointing because the warm-up had been absolutely spot on.
“To then find ourselves 19-9 down in the second half meant we all realised we had to pull something out of the bag (YM were also hampered by the sin-binnings of James Bell and Sam Hodge), but we managed to turn it around with four tries.
“The fact we were a lot fitter than them in the last 20 minutes was a big factor, and that will stand us in good stead for next season as well.
“To get to the National leagues for the first time is a brilliant achievement for YMCA as a club, and to have played with a lot of those lads since the age of five, growing up together, made it special as well.
“To come from Yorkshire II in such a short period of time with basically the same group of lads, all your mates, is a great feeling and we want to go on and do as well as we possibly can.”
Barber played with YMCA juniors from being five to 15, when he moved into rugby league with Elland and was picked up by the Huddersfield Giants Academy.
He moved to Castleford Tigers at 18 and spent half a season with Dewsbury Rams before going to Australia to play RL in the league at Newcastle.
He met girlfriend Liz out in Australia and she is now here in Huddersfield with him – they have a 16-month old son Oliver.
Barber spent a full season back at Dewsbury Rams on his return to this country, but he fell out with the coach and decided to return to YMCA.
“The year out in Australia (from October 2010) involved some tough rugby in testing, hot conditions, but it was good,” he said.
“I don’t think rugby league will now be the avenue for me at 24 and with a young family, but I’d like to see how far I can go in rugby union and obviously I want us to do well at YM.
“Some of the lads are going to continue working in the gym and then we’ll be back to pre-season work in about four weeks time, which usually means running up and down Beaumont Park!
“That’s a good way of getting fit and getting our bodies ready, and I can genuinely say we are all looking forward to playing at National level.
“It’s great that Huddersfield have gone up, although it would have been nice to have a derby against them. Maybe we can make that happen in the next few years.”
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