Harris: Crusaders can emulate Catalans

Crusaders, whose Wembley dream was shattered at the first hurdle at Hull KR in their inaugural campaign last year, would love to “do a Catalans.”

Catalans Dragons played in the first Carnegie Challenge Cup Final back at the new Wembley in only their second season in 2007 and Wrexham-based Crusaders, who moved from Bridgend this year, are aiming to emulate the Dragons magnificent achievement.

Ironically it is the French side that Crusaders will face in the fifth round of the competition on Sunday at the Recreation Ground, Wrexham (ko 3.30pm).

Harris, joint assistant with Jon Sharp to Crusaders boss Brian Noble, says: “It was a great effort by Catalans to reach Wembley in only their second season and that cup run did so much to promote the sport in the South of France.

“It gave the Dragons tremendous publicity and put them really in the public eye. Everyone sat up and noticed.

“Obviously a similar performance would be just as effective for Crusaders at this stage of our development.

“Wembley is a big objective and I would love the opportunity to be part of the coaching team at such a famous stadium.”

Harris, a Welsh dual-international at League and union, helped Leeds Rhinos crush London Broncos by a record 52-16 margin in the last final at the old Wembley in 1999.

He was also on the losing side for Leeds against Bradford Bulls at Murrayfield the following year.

“The Challenge Cup has a great tradition and it’s everyone’s dream to play at Wembley,” said 33 year old Harris.

“But we are taking nothing for granted against the Dragons. I’m just glad we are at home.

“Crusaders are trying to create a presence in North Wales and it’s so far so good.

“The crowds have been encouraging and apart from a few blips our performances have been reasonably consistent.”

Crusaders have already hit the headlines this season by persuading Gareth Thomas, the most capped Welsh RU player of all time with 100 appearances, to switch to the 13-a-side code.

Harris said:”Gareth has settled in well and knows all about the history of the Challenge Cup.

“His performances are getting better each week after being a little up and down at first.

“That is to be expected from a rugby union convert. He has the physicality and determination to succeed in Rugby League and I have no doubt he will be a success.”

Harris, who quit as a player after a spell at Featherstone Rovers last season, has no regrets about hanging up his boots.

“My body had taken enough of a battering over the years and it’s nice to be able to get out of bed normally the day after a match,” said the former Warrington, Leeds and Bradford star who had a stint with Cardiff Blues RU.

“It was a natural progression to move into coaching and I am enjoying the new challenge.

“Wembley is just as much an incentive for coaches as it is for players!”

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