ON the eve of his return to the Shay with South Wales Scorpions, former Barrow boss Dave Clark has insisted he is still “proud” of the Raiders’ tarnished 2009 Co-operative Championship Grand Final win over Halifax.
Clark’s Barrow side - bankrolled by charismatic chairman Des Johnston - beat Matt Calland’s Fax 26-18 at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium, although a Rugby Football League investigation ruled last year that the Cumbrians had systematically cheated the salary cap during Johnston’s tenure at Craven Park.
The Raiders were relegated to Championship One as a result, with the disgraced Johnston being banned from any involvement in rugby league.
But Clark, whose unfancied South Wales side face Fax in the fourth round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup on Saturday afternoon (3.0), made it clear he still regards their triumph as legitimate.
“I have no reason to hold my hands up over anything that happened at Barrow; I was very happy to be associated with the club,” said the Australian, who made his name in the English game as a hooker with the Raiders.
“I think I did a great job there and I was very proud of what we achieved.
“What happened behind the scenes was out of my control and I was never involved with the contracts or the money side of things.
“That was never brought to my attention at all, my job was just to coach the team.
“It was just about me and the players, nothing else, and as I said, I am proud of what we achieved.”
Clark subsequently took a development job with Super League giants Wigan, and it is the Warriors who are helping to fund his job in Neath after announcing a ‘partnership’ with the Scorpions last autumn.
“I am part contracted by Wigan and part by the Scorpions,” said Clark, whose side warmed up for Saturday’s trip north with a 34-22 ‘derby’ defeat by North Wales Crusaders on Monday night.
“I am loving the job, and I think the future is bright for the game in Wales, both at grass roots and the national side.
“Long term, hopefully Wigan see me as part of their coaching staff but this was a great opportunity for me to develop my skills.”
The Scorpions will start at long odds to make it through to round five against Karl Harrison’s table-topping outfit, especially after surrendering home advantage.
“I have been in the Championship and I know how big the gap is,” admitted Clark, whowill be without star half back Jamie Rooney after the former Featherstone and Wakefield player left by ‘mutual consent’ yesterday.
“Financially, it was the right decision to switch the game because we get pretty poor crowds.
“From a performance point of view, it won’t make too much difference; the players are used to the travelling.
“On Monday we were on the bus for three and a half hours for a derby fixture, it’s just part of life in Wales rugby league.”
HALIFAX’S under 23s host Sheffield Eagles at the Shay tonight (8.0) in their first home game of 2012.
Coaches Martin Gonzalez and Jim Gannon are without winger Gareth Stead, who scored a hat trick in last week’s win at Keighley, but could welcome back hooker Ben Manning, who has been absent with a broken toe.
Halifax (from): Martin, Shaw, Patrice, Bradley, Holroyde, Hynes, Radcliffe, Wood, Manning, Smith, White, Benn, Jackson, Fairbank, Lumb, Davies, Goodman