Mike Eccles wants to create a “real buzz” off the pitch this winter and outlined plans to aim for next year’s Betfred Championship play-offs after the Broncos’ 2022 campaign ended on Sunday.

The newly announced Director of Rugby and Performance was disappointed not to round-off the season in winning style when losing to play-off bound Barrow Raiders 20-30 at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

But he revealed after full-time that several key players from this year’s squad have committed to the Broncos badge next season and he expects to make some announcements imminently.

Eccles hopes early planning coupled with a carefully structured pre-season can help the club achieve its aim of finishing inside the play-off frame in 2023 following a challenging season.

“It’s been a year of highs and lows,” said Eccles. “We’ve fallen away towards the end of the season, and next year we need to be much better overall.

“Already my team and I are looking forward to starting pre-season and announcing the players we have retained and signed externally.

“We want to create a real buzz and be ready next year to mount a challenge for the play-offs. The hard work of rebuilding starts now.” 

The Broncos made an encouraging start to this season’s finale as Alex Walker crossed over inside the opening 10 minutes. Oli Leyland’s conversion made it 6-0.

Barrow responded to lead 6-14 by half-time courtesy of tries for Anton Iaria and Charlie Emslie. A penalty by Ryan Shaw ensured the visitors led by eight points.

Paul Ulberg touched down on 46 minutes to reduce the Broncos’ deficit to four points before Calum Gahan went over moments later to swing the game back in the hosts’ favour.

Celebrations were short-lived, though, as Raiders’ Tee Ritson registered a brace and Ryan Shaw crossed over within 10 minutes. Iliess Macani’s late effort was purely consolation as the Broncos lost 20-30.

“We’ve not finished the season as I would’ve liked,” said Eccles. “We played under some serious pressure towards the end of May, and I am proud of the way we got ourselves out of that situation.

“We just ran out of steam, and the intensity we played under in high-pressure situations took its toll. Barrow have an excellent team, and they play an attractive brand of Rugby League.

“They’ve done an amazing job this year and I do believe they have the talent and skill to book a place in the Grand Final. Credit to the fans that came down and supported them, and we wish them good luck in the play-offs.

“From our point of view, I don’t believe we executed our gameplan – if we did then we would’ve won the game. We put ourselves under too much pressure in the first half.”