Club of the Week: North Wales

Formed from the ashes of Super League’s failed Welsh club, North Wales Crusaders have only been in existence for a touch more than 18 months – but they have already won their first final.

The Wrexham-based club beat London Skolars 42-24, in July’s Northern Rail Bowl Final at Halifax.

And coach Clive Griffiths, a veteran of both codes and the man who masterminded Wales’ stirring performance against Australia in the 2000 World Cup semi finals, is confident the club will go from strength to strength.

Griffith said: “Who’d have said last year, when we lost by 60 points against London in the second game of the season and everyone was filled with doom and gloom, that by August 2013 we’d be top of the league and Bowl champions?

“I’ve got to keep pinching myself and we’ve got to keep alert, because somebody is always waiting to spoil the party.

“One of my favourite sayings is that the ‘work in progress’ signs are still around the ground and training ground, but we’ve made terrific progress.

“From a blank sheet of paper in December 2011 to where we are now 20 months later is Roy of the Rovers stuff. I’m not being arrogant about that – it’s just a startling thing.

“We’re ahead of schedule and overachieving, and we just hope we can continue that.”

Griffiths’ optimism for the future is based on the Crusaders’ fan-base and the potential catchment area the club can draw on to recruit both new fans and players.

He said: “There’s real rugby league interest here. Every time we go away we can our supporters and it’s fantastic for the players. Those fans are always there and it’s great to have that support.

“I just hope we can get success this season for those people who put their neck on the block and said ‘we’re not letting rugby league die in north Wales’. The easiest thing to do would have been to just walk away, but a group of people came together, and the supporters came together, and they all refused to lie down.

“It was a pretty rushed job, but here we are. I came in to help establish the club and that’s been done now.

“All it needs now is sound financial foundations so we can move forward, attract good players and move up the leagues again. It will be a long haul, but there’s no reason why it can’t be done.”

Asked about the club’s medium to long-term future, Griffiths is not afraid to dream big.

“If you ask anybody if they’d like to be playing St Helens, Leeds, Wigan and Warrington each week, of course everyone would say yes, wouldn’t they? People might think it’s pie in the sky, but just look at some of the teams that have been in Super League in the past. Everybody wants to get there.

“I’d love to see the club in there, there’s no doubt about that. It’d be fantastic for Welsh rugby league.

“The club – as North Wales Crusaders – is established now, there’s no doubt about that. To bring Super League back to the club would be a fantastic achievement and a dream come true. You can never say never.”

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