Crusaders conquering new frontiers

Gareth Walker looks into North Wales’ home move to Colwyn Bay with Andy Mousdale

Amid all the surprises and successes in Betfred League 1 this season, North Wales Crusaders’ story is one worth telling.
Anthony Murray’s side went into Sunday’s game with leaders Barrow in fourth place, above several clubs with higher-profile squads.

But more than that, off the field the club has undergone a bold move to Colwyn Bay that is already paying dividends.

Attendances are on the rise since the return of crowds, there are four new community clubs in North Wales and the impressive multi-use Stadiwm ZipWorld is proving to be a welcoming new home.

“It’s gone really well so far,” Crusaders’ chief executive and former stand-off Andy Mousdale explained

“We’ve been based in Wrexham since the reformation of the club after the Super League team folded, and it’s not been easy in the last couple of years.

“With Covid, we re-evaluated over the last 12 months, and the reality was that where we played didn’t meet our needs.

“The move also gave us an opportunity to tap into a new market.

“As a club, we’re in a position that’s unique compared to other teams, in that we cover a whole region; we’re not tied to just one small area like other clubs are.

“As a club we felt this was the best way to go.

“The positives are that it’s a great venue, a really good facility that I’m sure some Super League clubs will be envious of.

“The training facilities are excellent, the corporate for match days is great and the general backing of Conway Council, who have really been behind us, has been a big help.

“The local community has been great too and commercially we’ve had a lot of success.

“Moving here was a big thing for us, but what has also helped is that I’d say we’ve kept 95 per cent of the fans from Wrexham as well.

“We always knew it would be a big challenge moving 45 minutes away, but in the main the fans understood and have come with us.

“It’s been win-win so far.”

A further boost has been provided by a targeted development of the amateur game in the region.

“The community game in Wales has had a resurgence,” Mousdale continued.

“We’ve worked closely with Wales RL, and there have been teams set up at Flintshire Falcons, Conwy Celts, there’s a team on Anglesey that we’ve never had before and Rhyl Panthers.

“There’s also Wrexham Crusaders, who have been going for a number of years but who we’ve rebranded, instead of them being our reserve team.

“It all helps massively, because it generates interest in Rugby League.

“In North Wales everybody knows that rugby union is the prominent sport, probably over football, but we’re giving lads the opportunity to play in summer and a lot have jumped at the chance.

“We’ve had around 150 lads take up the sport and it’s going from strength to strength.”

On the pitch, Anthony Murray’s side is exceeding expectations too.

“We’ve spoken a lot about all the off-field stuff, but ultimately everyone looks at how you’re doing on the field to help gain interest in the community and on the commercial side,” Mousdale said.

“We had a tough start to the season, and like everyone else we’ve experienced a lot of injuries and Covid setbacks.

“But you have to get on with things and we’ve had some really good performances on the pitch.

“The task now is to try and stay in the play-offs.

“League 1 this year is so tough and competitive; you’ve probably got seven or eight teams vying for the play-offs.

“It’s so tight and you can’t really call games from week to week.”

Overall, during a time of considerable concern at this level of the sport, Mousdale believes his club can continue to prosper moving forward.

“I know a lot is said about the future of Rugby League in general, but in terms of Wales we can only control what we control,” he added.

“We’ve got the best relationship with Wales RL and Gareth Kear that we’ve had in my ten years of being involved here and a lot of people are working really hard for us.

“North Wales is in a good place at the moment and we’ve got more people playing the game at open-age level than ever before.

“We still need to do a lot of work at grassroots and youth level, but right now we’re in a decent place.”

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