Never rule out the Crusaders!

It would be silly of me to repeat everything that one of my fellow site journalists has said, so for the preview of Celtic Crusaders visit the following link:nnClick HEREnnI will however, just tag on a paragraph of my own views in response to that article by the knowledgeable Tony Williams, as well as after-thoughts on their opening game against Leeds Rhinos.nnThe Crusaders do possess some good players, however, whether they have the potential to match the speed and fast-flowing nature of Super League will remain to be seen.nnI am a big fan of Jace Van Dijk. He is a top quality half-back and without him, it would be wise to say that Celtic Crusaders would not have achieved half of what they have done without him.nnAside from that, I think that the Welsh side can provide one or two shocks this season, but whether they can adapt quick enough is a big question.nnThey may well end up with the wooden spoon, but that’s all part of a steep learning curve for their coach John Dixon, as well as many of the players.nnYou only have to use the example of Catalans Dragons who did the same in their first season. Look at their progression now.nnI do not think they have the quality within their squad to sustain hopes of finishing outside the bottom two, and I think Salford have a massive advantage in that their coach knows Super League like the back of his hand.nnTherefore, unfortunately, I can only see a 14th placed finish for the Celtic Crusaders.nnMark’s Prediction: 14th in Super League, Challenge Cup Fifth Round.nn

Player to Watch Jace Van Dijk.nnFan’s View:n The Celtic Crusaders’ fan’s view is provided by Lewis Clark.nnnCeltic Crusaders go into the season as a new Super League club and having made 9 new signings in the pre-season. Other than Ste Tyrer and Matty Smith all of the new players are overseas additions and although they will add quality to our squad and first thirteen, it isn’t ideally what Crusaders fans would like to see. From a fans point of view we would like a team and squad that is made up of British players with a mix of local and overseas players, after all what Super League club doesn’t have them. As it is we have a squad made up in the main of imports and a sprinkling of Welsh internationals. Sadly, even some of the Welsh internationals are more antipodean than South Walian but, as has already been said, we are not in an ideal situation. The development of young Welsh players is the focus of the manager and the club as a whole and without bringing players through from grass roots the club will certainly not survive. Youngsters are the future and lifeblood of any sporting organisation and Crusaders realise this more than most and have set out their objectives at an early stage. This has encouraged the fans and this attempt at rugby league in Wales looks to be doing things correctly and looking at the long term and not short term boom or bust. nnSuper League is ahead for the club and looking at the squad John Dixon has decided to keep together the backbone of the group that progressed to Super League from National League 2 and has added some steel up front in the form of Ryan O’Hara, Mark Bryant and Adam Peek. On paper there is a sprinkling of Super League experience but nowhere near as much as that of any other squad in the league. Due to the lack of pre-season games it is hard to say how the squad have gelled and how they will perform as a unit. Given what has gone previously and the lack of preparation it is understandable why all of the bookmakers have us as favourites for the wooden spoon this season. Regardless of this there seems to be a certain confidence around the squad and I think they are of the belief that they have what it takes to compete this season and also can take a few of the bigger scalps along the way. It will be interesting to see if the players who have performed in NL1 and 2 can stand up to the challenge before them. If they do then we could have the makings of a very solid squad that can turn in some great performances when in the mood. A very decent back line coupled with solid NRL players such as Lincoln Withers, Marshall Chalk and Mark Bryant could see an encouraging season ahead with the squad exceeding expectations. Whether this materialises remains to be seen but we all wish for the best. There is a confidence in South Wales that John Dixon can get the best from this squad as he has done previously and who are we to doubt him. nnThe fans of the club have a good feeling about the season ahead. Being new to Super League there is a little uncertainty of what to expect, not only from Super League itself but from our squad also. None of the new signings are big names but John Dixon has a knack of unearthing gems and bringing them together to make a unit that is greater than the sum of the parts. We, as fans of rugby league, have all seen Super League before but there is an uncertainty as to how our players, new and old, will adapt and perform at the higher level. High standards of performance like the one against Leeds in the Challenge Cup last season are very encouraging but it remains to be seen whether the players can remain competitive week in week out in a very tough competition. The squad are a good mixture of youth and experience and many fans would put money on us finishing above bottom spot and have done. The coming season will be an experience that Welsh rugby league fans young and old will not have witnessed as of yet with Crusaders being the first Welsh team in top flight British rugby league. Anything above bottom spot will be a bonus for the fans as everyone and their mate outside of the club have us nailed on for bottom spot. It is now over to the squad to show whether they can make people eat those predictions and make a statement in their first season in the top flight. The South Welsh public and squad are ready to go and we are looking forward to testing ourselves on the rollercoaster that is Super League.

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