North Wales Crusaders are a club on the rise, says coach Anthony Murray

Drew Darbyshire

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

North Wales Crusaders might have one of the smallest budgets in League 1 – but they are a club doing good things on and off the field.

The Welsh outfit have made their presence felt off the field and are putting their own stamp on community rugby league, with the club’s reserve team competing in Division 4 of the North West Men’s League.

Crusaders introduced their ‘A’ team ahead of the 2018 season with the idea of bridging the gap between the first-team and the club’s community set up.

North Wales coach Anthony Murray said: “We’ve got the reserve team running which gives players from the North Wales area who might never have played before a chance to play the game.

“They play a similar mould of what the first-team plays so there is a decent pathway there. I get involved with them as well and do some coaching sessions so off the field we are starting to take small steps.

“We’ve also got an Under-15s team now that have been going since Under-13s and they’ve beaten some of the established teams this year like Wigan St Pats and Leigh East, so we are growing at junior level as well.

“We’ve got to keep working hard and its all small steps with us at Crusaders – especially with the first-team. We’ve slowly made progression every year, we’ve gone from ninth to seventh and hopefully we can make the play-offs this year.”

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

North Wales narrowly missed out on a play-off spot in League 1 last season, as they finished just outside the top six by three points.

And Murray is confident his side can go one step further in 2020 and make the play-offs.

He continued: “The play-offs have got to be our aim this year because we just missed out last season.

“We wanted to finish in the play-offs last year and we finished seventh – but I think we did quite well to be honest.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve got a better squad this year, its a bit younger and its going to take some time to gel but there is no reason why we can’t get into the play-offs.

“We’ve lost a few players who have been with us for a few years so I wanted to bring in young players at Crusaders and follow the same process of getting lads who really want to stay at Cru and build a team that pushes for the play-offs.”

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

North Wales made 10 signings over the off-season – including several players who have made the step up from the amateur game.

Murray is pleased with the club’s business ahead of 2020 but believes this year is going to be one of the most competitive that League 1 has seen.

He added: “You think to yourself that your recruitment has gone well and then you look at the teams who are going to be in the top half of the table!

“You’ve got Newcastle who have recruited really well, they’ve got a big budget to spend and are the best team we played last year.

“Barrow have come down and their retention of their players has been good, with Doncaster and Hunslet doing the same.

“Workington, Keighley and London Skolars have also spent a fair bit but I like that challenge. I don’t see that as a negative, I look at this and think of where we could be as a club and what we can bring to the table.

“We don’t use our budget as an excuse. Teams do have more money to spend than us but money doesn’t buy success. Look at Newcastle, they didn’t get promoted last year, so you’ve just got to build a squad that you feel is capable of competing and capable of buying into what you want to do as a club.”

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