In Part Two of Thirteen of our new ‘Who Are Ya?’ series, the Cougars Media Manager Joshua Chapman will be looking at another side we were relegated from the Championship alongside, the North Wales Crusaders.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS 2014:
Final Position: 11th in Championship (Relegated)
Challenge Cup: 4th Round (Lost v Featherstone Rovers)
Top Tryscorer: Rob Massam (10)
Top Pointscorer: Tommy Johnson (174)
Biggest Win: 0-34 v Whitehaven (Away, 27/4/14)
Heaviest Defeat: 66-0 v Featherstone Rovers (Away, 6/4/14)
Twelve months on from the club’s triumphant promotion as Championship One Champions, 2014 was a completely different world for the Wrexham based outfit.
Despite a gallant effort, a heart breaking last gasp 20-17 defeat at home to Halifax in mid-August confirmed an immediate return to the game’s third tier after just a year away.
Optimism was high within the club following promotion the previous August and a solid pre-season campaign which brought away victories at the Leigh Centurions and Doncaster raised expectations.
The 2014 season got off to the best possible start for the Crusaders when they defeated the Barrow Raiders (34-16) and Swinton Lions (20-16) in the opening three rounds.
The Challenge Cup saw a comfortable win over the Pilkington Recs in Round Three before Round Four saw the Welsh side dumped out in embarrassing circumstances after a 66-0 defeat at Featherstone.
Four defeats followed in the Championship before Crusaders temporarily moved out of the relegation places after a comprehensive 34-0 triumph against Whitehaven.
May brought two more wins, both on the road, against Workington (11-10) and a shocking victory at Halifax (12-6) but both home games that month, against Sheffield and Keighley, ending in losses.
With the club on the road with a new pitch being laid at Wrexham’s Racecourse Stadium, The Rock brought defeats against Swinton and Doncaster either side of a 22-21 win to complete the double over Whitehaven.
However, the Haven win saw the end of Clive Griffith’s reign as he stepped aside to be replaced by Anthony Murray who had started the year in charge at relegation rivals Barrow.
Murray’s twelve games in charge yielded just a single victory, 30-18 over the Cougars here at Cougar Park, but this came too late following the team’s relegation being confirmed the week previous.
2015 SQUAD NUMBERS: 1 – Tommy Johnson; 2 – Scott Turner; 3 – Christiaan Roets; 4 – Matt Reid; 5 – Rob Massam; 6 – Andy Moulsdale; 7 – Jamie Dallimore; 8 – Jonny Walker; 9 – Callum Wright; 10 – Ryan Duffy; 11 – Jono Smith; 12 – Stephen Wild; 13 – Gary Middlehurst; 14 – Karl Ashall; 15 – Lee Hudson; 16 – Joe Burke; 17 – Stuart Reardon; 19 – Paddy Mooney; 20 – Elliot Davies; 21 – Ian Mort; 22 – Alex Thompson; 23 – Mark Hobson; 24 – Alex Davidson; 25 – Owain Griffiths; 27 – Andrew Joy; 28 – Andrew Oakden; 29 – Leon Brennan
Despite losing some of last season’s standout performers, Anthony Murray has made some astute signings following relegation.
Ryan Duffy, who finished the season on loan from Leigh, has made his controversial transfer to Wrexham a permanent one. Fellow loanee Alex Davidson has also joined the side on a permanent basis following his release from the Salford Red Devils.
Highly rated Welsh international Prop Joe Burke has arrived from the Barrow Raiders as has his Raiders teammate, the veteran fullback, Ian Mort.
Two players have joined the club from Australia with former Crusader Leon Brennan returning from the Sarina Crocodiles with Elliot Davies arriving from Warwick Cowboys.
Hooker Callum Wright has arrived from the Wigan Warriors academy and will be followed to North Wales from the North West by Oldham Roughyeds trio Mark Hobson, Paddy Mooney and Andrew Joy.
Brennan isn’t the only former Crusader to return with Andrew Oakden following a spell in the amateur game with the Chester Gladiators. And finally, Alex Thompson has joined from League One rivals, Oxford.
As previously mentioned, some of the North Wales stars of 2014 have moved on to pastures new following relegation to League One.
Toby Adamson has signed for the Dewsbury Rams with another long serving player Stephen Bannister, who has been with the club since the original Crusaders of Super League, has moved onto pastures new at Whitehaven.
American World Cup star Mark Offerdahl has headed to Australia after his proposed move to the Bradford Bulls collapsed due to injury.
Anthony Murray has released ten players. These players include popular winger Dan Birkett, veteran Prop David Mills and Dominic Speakman, who only joined in July following his release from the Barrow Raiders.
Anthony Murray stepped up from Assistant to the top job when Clive Griffiths, the clubs Coach since it’s reformation in 2012 decided to move upstairs to take up the Director of Rugby role.
Anthony originally started last year as Head Coach of the Barrow Raiders, yet walked out of Craven Park after only two months in charge citing work reasons for his departure.
Combining his role at the Crusaders with a University coaching job in Liverpool, Murray is one of the semi-professional games highest rated young coaches.
The Racecourse is a classic looking football ground with four prominent floodlight pylons and a large home terrace, which unfortunately is now closed. The stadium also has a great blend of the old and the new, with the Mold Road Stand, having a modern interesting design.
At the other end is the Glyndwr University Stand. This stand which was opened in 1978 is a two tiered stand, covered and all seated. It has a couple of supporting pillars, situated between the two tiers. It also has an electric scoreboard on its roof.
On one side is the Yale Stand. This stand was opened in 1972 and got its name from the Yale College, which was situated behind this stand. It is a fair sized two tiered covered stand, which is now all seated, having previously had terracing at the front. The team dugouts are located in front of this stand.
Opposite is the Mold Road Stand that was opened in 1999. This side of the ground has been unused for a number of years so its construction greatly improved the overall ground appearance. It is semi circular in design with a capacity of 3,500 seats and features an unusual roof design.
CHANCES FOR 2015:
Kingstone Press League One is a very different to the one that the Crusaders won with comfortable ease in 2013.
Whilst the Welsh international duo of Rooets and Massam will prove as pivotal as ever, the points machine Tommy Johnson and Andy Moulsdale should be who decides the Crusaders fate come September despite the influx of new faces.
The Crusaders should finish within the top five for an end of season play-off spot. But they’ll have to fight the likes of Gateshead, York and Oldham for it.
JOSHUA CHAPMAN PREDICTS: 5th
FIXTURES AGAINST THE COUGARS:
Sunday 26th April – Keighley Cougars v North Wales Crusaders – 3pm – Kingstone Press League One
Sunday 28th June – North Wales Crusaders v Keighley Cougars – 2.30pm – Kingstone Press League One