North Wales Crusaders have suffered financial troubles in the past but there is a feel-good factor around the club again.
The club was founded in 2011 following the folding of Crusaders Rugby League Club, who played in the Super League.
And North Wales have played in League 1 ever since. In recent years, it has been no secret that they have struggled with off-field issues such as failing to provide players with their wages and being in debt.
North Wales coach Mike Grady has revealed exclusively to loverugbyleague.com that their debts will be cleared in approximately two years, but insists that the club are in a good place because the players are getting paid on time now and that the finances are well-structured.
He said: “It will probably be the end of the 2019 season until we are back on the straight and narrow.
“We’ve definitely got the lowest budget in the league. On the plus side, the board are doing a good job at the moment but it won’t be until the end of the 2019 season until we are financially even.
“The players are being paid the full amount and on time recently so the club aren’t over-stretching themselves now. Everyone is being paid on time and everything is transparent. We all know what is going on. The club is going in the right direction but it will take a couple of years to start making decent money.
“Every player who comes to the club knows that the money isn’t great but they are being paid in full and on time now so it’s more structured. The board have done a pretty good job with that recently.”
North Wales’ attendances have improved slowly but surely in the last two or three seasons, gaining over 500 spectators on a few occasions. The club look to be improving in all areas, with the club’s media output having improved as well.
Crusaders have rivals in West Wales Raiders, with the game being a Welsh derby. This fixture in particular attracts hundreds of extra fans to the two games.
And Grady believes having that rivalry there is a positive for both Welsh clubs.
He told loverugbyleague.com: “It does mean quite a lot to the supporters.
“The clubs are around four hours apart but it is definitely a Welsh derby and there is quite a bit of rivalry there. There is always a good turn-out for those games and they are loud.
“West Wales always up their game and I can’t wait to play them again next year. They are the games that fans look forward to when the fixtures are released. It’s a good, friendly rivalry.”
Fair play to Wales, they actually do bring through homegrown talent. They bring players through who were born in Wales or who live there or who play Rugby League in the country.
They didn’t have the best of tournaments at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup but the majority of the players who travelled to Australia will be much better for it.
Ben Flower, Regan Grace, Gil Dudson, Elliot Kear and Lloyd White are just some of the big names in Wales Rugby League and Grady believes there can be plenty more like them playing at the top in the future.
He said: “We’ve got a couple of junior teams and we had an Under-18s team last year but they will now be competing at open-age level.
“There is loads of talent for Rugby League in Wales but we just need to be patient with it. There is a talent pool and it is a breeding ground for Rugby Union but if they can get some players who didn’t quite make it in Rugby Union and bring them into League then it would be great because we would have more Welsh players in the game.
“The club is definitely going in the right place so hopefully we can get a couple of players through the system in a few years.”
Grady is a highly-respected coach in League 1 and his burning passion for North Wales Crusaders is very clear to see.
The club are on the right track to get out of their financial struggles and hopefully we can see them challenging for promotion to the Championship within the next five years or so.
It would be brilliant to see a Welsh team in the top-flight again one day. Maybe North Wales should set that as their long-term goal…