The Self-Isolation Chronicles: North Wales Crusaders

1. One of their former players is now a model.

Stuart Reardon carved a respectable name for himself in Rugby League with spells at hometown club Bradford Bulls (in three spells) and Warrington Wolves, before joining Celtic Crusaders for their final Super League season. He would head to France with AS Carcassonne for a season, the year after, before becoming one of the poster boys for a newly formed North Wales Crusaders. He stayed with the Phoenix club between 2013 and 2016, before hanging up his boots to focus on his modelling career. He would literally become a poster boy, featuring in the likes of DNA, Muscle & Fitness, Gloss, Q Vegas, EILE magazine among his brand promotions which have included Hugo Boss. He has also posed nude in his illustrious second career. Google it, if you don’t believe us. Two fellow former Celtic Crusaders players have also since moved into modelling, with Nick Youngquest becoming the face of Paco Rabanne in 2013 and union legend Gareth Thomas modelling in various capacities.

2. They were challenged by another Welsh side for a place in League 1 when they were formed.

Glyndwr Chargers were hoping to challenge North Wales Crusaders’ bid to join League 1 ahead of the 2012 season, but they were quickly halted. The Crusaders managed to gain the support of Glyndwr University, a backing the Chargers were not able to obtain, meaning they were able to obtain access to the Racecourse Ground. The ground, home to Wrexham FC, was sold to the University in 2012. The North Wales Crusaders name, although born as an Academy side under Celtic Crusaders, was almost not chosen as the brand of the new club. The name Glyndwr was considered, as Glyndwr Crusaders, as was Cambrian Crusaders and the North Wales name in an online poll by supporters of the club. Commentators could breathe a huge sigh of relief, as North Wales was given the vote.

3.They signed Tawera Nikau’s son at the start of the year.

The career of Tawera Nikau has certainly had a chapter or two, having suffering from the suicide of wife Letitia in 2001 and losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident two years later. The former York, Sheffield, Castleford and Warrington bruiser was also subject to a court case that saw him found guilty of assaulting his daughter, in 2012, a conviction that was quashed on appeal. Nikau has since turned to life coaching and is still involved in the game as one of the selectors of the New Zealand national team. His family name will hopefully thrive once again, when play resumes, as his son Tyme has linked up with North Wales Crusaders. He has featured for the development sides of Melbourne Storm, New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights, as well as for Maitland Pickers and Burri Burri Bulldogs.

4. They gave Benjamin Jullien his first shot in the UK.

Between 2012-2015, Jullien had carved a well-respected name for himself in France, as a try-scoring back-rower or centre at his local side Avignon. That would prompt North Wales Crusaders to offer him a deal for part of the 2015 season, initially on trial, as he battered defences and scored 7 tries in only 14 games. Partner club and Super League outfit Warrington Wolves were quickly alerted to his talents, signing him up for the following campaign. The French international would become a solid squad member for the Wolves, with his endless running an asset from the interchange. The 25-year-old was snapped up by France’s flagship club Catalans Dragons, in 2018, and has replicated similar form since his move.

5. One of their current squad is Germany’s youngest ever captain.

Brad Billsborough (above, centre) is back closer to home after venturing down travelled roads in Rugby League, The former St Helens Academy player, who had spells at Whitehaven and Swinton Lions, featured for Australian side Grafton Ghosts in 2019. Following a conversation with Germany international Jimmy Keinhorst (above, left), Billsborough revealed his mother was born in Berlin and was then called-up for their national side in 2016. He has played six times for his second nation, featuring in the 2021 World Cup Qualifiers, becoming their youngest captain in 2018.