New-look Crusaders relishing the challenge

Crusaders RL coach Jon Sharp is confident the Super League club’s new-look squad will rise to the challenge when they kick off the new season with a home match against defending champions Leeds Rhinos in two weeks time.

The Welsh club have undergone massive changes since the end of last year, moving north from Bridgend to Wrexham under new owners, appointing a new coaching team and investing heavily in a new squad, and will take to the field against Leeds as massive underdogs.

But first team coach Sharp, who will work alongside Head Coach Brian Noble and his assistant Iestyn Harris, is relishing the visit of the Rhinos to the Racecourse Ground on Friday January 29, a date which sees Crusaders RL begin their bid to improve on last year’s first season as an Engage Super League club..

“The attitude of the players has been brilliant, they’ve been absolutely outstanding and have worked really hard,” said Sharp, the former Huddersfield Giants coach who has found himself working with a constantly expanding squad.

“We’ve had a truncated off-season and have players arriving on a daily basis so it’s backs-to-the-wall stuff for us. However we’re experienced as players and coaches and looking forward to that challenge.

“Crusaders had it tough last year when, despite a promising start, they never quite got over the line. Three wins out of 27 games was just not good enough and Brian, myself and Iestyn have come in to try and significantly improve on that.

“Hopefully we can make a difference. With a few more signings and working them really hard, we’re hoping to improve.”

Sharp believes that the experience of the likes of Ryan O’Hara and Tony Martin will be essential to the club’s fortunes in the coming season.

“I think Ryan O’Hara had a great year last year and in a beaten team he was outstanding and certainly one that stood out for me,” said Sharp.

 “You look at Tony Martin coming from Wakefield who’s a proven performer and really helpful for us this year and his experience is helping the other guys. I’m sure Tony’s going to have a good year as will Lincoln Withers. Again he’s a name that everyone knows and we expect big things from him.”

The visit of opponents who have won the Engage Super League title in each of the last three seasons can only bring out the best in Crusaders RL and Sharp is hoping the excitement around Wrexham will spur the team on.

“It’s an opportunity for the Wrexham club to get off on a really good footing. I think the locals are really excited about a new team arriving in the town,” he said.

“You couldn’t wish for a better start. It’s going to be challenge coming up against a great team who are getting ready for the World Club Challenge but one we’re looking forward to and I think there’s going to be some emotion that night.”

Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground will host Crusaders RL’s first game of the season against current champions Leeds Rhinos on Saturday January 29 kicking off at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased through the club’s ticket office on 01978 262129 or by visiting www.crusadersrfl.com

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