Crusaders’ media manager Ryan Gould looks ahead to the start of the new season, which gets underway on Saturday with an away tie to West Hull in the League 1 Cup. 

Although pre-season doesn’t necessarily count for anything, a successful one can often give you some much-needed momentum heading in to the regular season.

There is no doubt that Anthony Murray and his Crusaders squad will be happy with their work during pre-season, as they picked up just the solitary loss at Leigh Centurions, who were very impressive despite the youth in their side.

Other than that, Crusaders’ pre-season has been solid and, in the cases of the wins over Batley Bulldogs and Swinton Lions, consisted of some impressive performances.

Crusaders beat Championship side Batley Bulldogs 30-20 in a pre-season friendly.

Crusaders beat Championship side Batley Bulldogs 30-20 in a pre-season friendly.

One of the main elements of Crusaders’ performance in pre-season that stands out to me is the mix of both experience and youth in the squad.

The likes of Alex Davidson, Ryan Duffy and Scott Turner have all signed permanent deals after being with Crusaders last term, while Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves academy products Callum Wright and Elliot Davies respectively have also been brought in.

Of course, experience in a team is vital – without it, it’s hard to find a sense of leadership in the side – but young, up-and-coming players are also important. Previously, Crusaders haven’t had that.

So, as important as it was the retain the experience of last season’s squad, plus new, experienced signings such as Alex Thompson, Mark Hobson, Ian Mort and Joe Burke, the younger players that have been brought in by Anthony Murray will prove to be equally as valuable.

It’s exciting to think how some of the younger players that Crusaders have in the squad can develop over the coming season, after already showing such promise in pre-season.

2014 was a season to forget for Crusaders; although it was a valuable experience and learning curve to play in a higher league, nothing really went to plan. Injuries; the temporary move to The Rock (as good as it was to play there); movement in players; and the movement in coaching staff – they’re all factors that may have caused disruption for Crusaders last season.

Despite Cefn Druids' The Rock being a fantastic venue to host rugby league, having to play more fixtures than anticipated away from The Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium didn't help matters.

Despite Cefn Druids’ The Rock being a fantastic venue to host rugby league, having to play more fixtures than anticipated away from The Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium didn’t help matters.

But the Welsh club will definitely come out of the experience stronger; as I’ve previously mentioned, you’ve only got to look at the squad that Crusaders have assembled for 2015.

League 1 in 2015 looks a lot different to the competition that Crusaders won back in 2013, due to the RFL’s re-structing, and the task of winning it is certainly going to be a lot more difficult.

There’s a lot of teams that will be competitive at the top end this season. Keighley Cougars, Rochdale Hornets, Swinton Lions and Barrow Raiders are all sides that came down with Crusaders at the end of 2014, while newly-named Newcastle Thunder, Oldham Roughyeds and York City Knights will also fancy their chances of some success.

The play-offs should be a realistic and achievable target for Crusaders, though. From there, see where the play-offs take you.

We’ve already seen from the Super League and Championship action, plus the World Club Series last weekend, that rugby league’s new era in the United Kingdom has got off to a flyer.

League 1 and the League 1 Cup should be equally as good – if not there. So, why miss out? Get behind Crusaders in 2015.

We are North Wales Crusaders. And we fear nothing. 

Season tickets for the 2015 season are still available and can be purchased here, while anyone wishing to sponsor Crusaders in any way should contact Crusaders’ general manager Hanna Clarke on 08432 896 407 or at hanna.clarke@crusadersrfl.com. 

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