North East Wales

North Wales Crusaders rugby league fans form 'team'

The new North Wales Crusaders "squad" lining up on the Racecourse pitch
Image caption Fans hope the newly-formed club will make a return to Super League rugby

A rugby league club has put forward a team made up of fans while it goes about signing up professional players.

Wrexham-based North Wales Crusaders formed after the original Crusaders pulled out of the Super League in July, citing financial concerns.

But the new side had to name a provisional squad to meet a deadline, so asked fans to step forward.

A postman, teacher, lorry drivers and a schoolboy all posed for a "team photo" at the Racecourse on Saturday.

Image caption Dylan Jones, eight, is the youngest member in the "squad"

The side was created by a consortium of businesses and fans.

Interim chief executive Jamie Thomas said he was confident a full team of professional players would be in place for the opening of the Co-Operative Championship One next year.

But more than enough people had volunteered to make up the team numbers after the side was given 14 days to submit its application.

Mr Thomas said: "These are the 30 fans who stepped up to the plate and put their names down for our first ever 'squad' when the RFL told us we'd be breaching our operational guidelines if we didn't submit a provisional squad list to them by the beginning of November, when in actual fact we didn't even have one player!"

New ownership

Head coach Clive Griffiths had since signed the club's first player and the hunt for more continued.

"There are plenty of people who want to play - it's about getting people of the correct standard," Mr Thomas said.

Fan Dylan Jones, eight, the youngest member of the temporary line-up, said: "I'm really pleased to be here.

Image caption Fans paid £30 each to line up in the first ever North Wales Crusaders "squad"

"I'm hoping they will be back in the Super League in three years."

Royal Mail lorry driver Chris Jones, 47, from Wrexham, said: "It's a great idea to have fans doing this.

"It's nice to have a place in history.

"I've never played rugby in my life. This is probably the nearest I'll get to it.

"We've paid £30 each to be in this squad. They could have filled the places three or four times over. We're the lucky ones. There's a lot of support for the club."

Postman Simon Jones, 32, from Chester, said: "It was awful to see the fans torn apart when things went wrong earlier this year.

"We're starting from scratch, and as fans we have to try and do all we can to help them."

Kristy Stephenson, 47, from Colwyn Bay, Conwy, was the only woman in the temporary squad.

"Too much work had gone into the club to let it just go. That would have been such a shame."

Ms Stephenson has passed her first level of rugby league refereeing and occasionally runs the line for her local team.

Asked if she would like to officiate at a Crusaders' game, she said:" I think I'm probably a bit old for that."

North Wales Crusaders will join another Welsh side, South Wales Scorpions, in competing in the third tier of the RFL's structure.

Their intention had always been to re-form under new ownership, but their plans were dealt a blow in September when the RFL rejected their application to join the Championship.

They were later invited to join but faced the challenge of delivering a named squad.

The club will play home games at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground after securing a deal with stadium owner Glyndŵr University.

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