Heart warming scenes as Hull FC fans chanted from the stands at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham in 2011 have been cited as one of the principal reasons that a rugby league club in North Wales was rescued from the ashes and reborn.
The Airlie Birds were the last visitors to the old Celtic Crusaders Super League club, whose owners withdrew from Super League on the eve of the licence announcement and ultimately put the club into liquidation.
The RFL stepped in and the team limped to the end of the season, but it was the reaction from Hull FC fans and Crusaders supporters at the last ever home game that inspired the fightback from oblivion by a new consortium.
Chief Executive of the new North Wales Crusaders, Jamie Thomas, commented: “After the final whistle blew on that day in 2011, we all walked onto the pitch with the real sense that this could be the last time the Racecourse saw competitive rugby league. It was a bizarre feeling.”
“Then spontaneously from the away end, the Hull FC fans broke into chants of ‘Cru, Cru, Crusaders’, and applauded the home supporters as they walked across the pitch for a good ten minutes. It was a great moment and typifies what it means to be a rugby league fan, that no matter where your loyalties lie, we’ve all got the game at heart.
“Off the back of those feelings and the strength of support locally, we knew we had to do everything we could to keep the game alive in Wrexham and it was from that North Wales Crusaders was born and an application was put in by a community consortium to enter Championship One.
"I’m absolutely thrilled that less than two years after that day, we’re back playing against Hull FC and will enjoy the company of their fans once again. I would have loved it if they had been able to revisit the Racecourse and re-create that special day, but a trip to the KC is the next best thing."
And Thomas doesn’t think the new North Wales Crusaders will roll over easily against their Super League opposition. “It maybe David versus Goliath, but we’re undefeated so far in 2013, top of the League and going well in the Cups”, he says. “Obviously it would be the shock of all shocks to pull off a victory, but the boys will give absolutely everything for the shirt and you never know what can happen!”
With the glass ceiling to Super League being removed from next season, the path to the top flight opens up for Cumbria once again.
The Super League play-offs in their current form may attract some criticism, but they are keeping the season alive for several clubs in the bottom half.
The bonus point system, that has been in place in the Championships for the past eight seasons, is on the agenda for possible inclusion in Super League next year.