Crusaders: We need overseas players

Celtic Crusaders football manager Anthony Seibold has defended the club’s overseas signings and explained why Welsh rugby union players were never pursued.nnSeibold said it would take up to seven years for the club to develeop its own players and that in the short term the club had to be competitive.nnHe added that many players from the Welsh Rugby Union Premiership had not been able to cope with National League Two, while Welsh internationals were out of reach.nnOnly four of the current Crusaders squad were born in Wales, while six of the club’s nine off-season signings have come from the southern hemisphere.nn“The Welsh presence at Super League level will be a gradual one and one that increases over time, not overnight,” said Seibold, himself an Australian, as well as head coach John Dixon.nnCompetitive in the short termnn“We will always look for quality out of the north. But we wanted to recruit players who we know had been developed the right way and through systems we thought could add something to the development of our young players here in Wales.nn“That meant recruiting Australian players that both John and I had worked with, played or coached with or against or know have come through the right development systems in the NRL.nn“Their charter is to make us more competitive in the short to medium term. The longer term is about producing Welsh players who are capable of competing at Super League.nn“Therefore recruiting players like Lincoln Withers, Mark Bryant, Adam Peek, Marshall Chalk and Ryan O’Hara – and keeping guys like Jace Van Dijk, Tony Duggan and Damien Quinn – is so instrumental in making the Crusaders competitive at Super League level initially and for their experience and professionalism to rub off on the young Welsh players.”nnSeibold also explained why the club had not targetted any Welsh rugby union players despite many people seeing Welsh rugby union as an untapped resource for the Crusaders.nnUnprofessionalismn n“The large majority of players we recruited from the Premiership could not handle the intensity, speed and skill level of National League Two,” he explained.nn“Some players could simply not handle the professionalism required at the third tier of the game – so how could they handle Super League?nn“If I had a wish-list, the four guys who would be at the top of it when looking at Welsh international rugby union are Lee Byrne, Andy Powell, Mike Phillips and Gavin Henson – who from my observations, would succeed at both games because they could transfer their skills, running games and defensive abilities between either code.nn“But why would they come to the Crusaders at present? All are integral members of the Welsh rugby union squad – and they don’t need to take the risk to test themselves in rugby league.”nnSeilbold belives that the club will always need players from down under and from the north of England, but that Welsh rugby league players will soon be ready.nnFour-to-seven yearsnnHe points out that the Crusaders used 57 Welsh players during their time in the National Leagues, while the club’s junior teams comprise almost entirely of Welsh youngsters.nn“The Welsh players are here,” he said. “They are four to seven years away from being Super League players – not four to seven months, as some would like to think.nn“For the long-term sustainability of the Celtic Crusaders in Wales, we have to put time and resources into these kids to enable them to develop into players who can compete at Super League level.”

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