The rise, fall and re-birth of Crusaders Rugby League

The story of the Crusaders Rugby League club has been one of the more convoluted, dramatic and even unlikely stories in recent seasons.

With a move to the other end of Wales, backroom intrigue and bankruptcy just a few of the things which happened off the field in their short existence. Throw in some genuine on-field drama and the signing of a Welsh rugby union icon and many novelists would be rejecting the plot as simply too far fetched.

The club spent its first season in Super League based in Bridgend, in South Wales. However, financial issues saw them move after a season to Wrexham in North Wales, with new owners on board and a superb coach in the shape of Brian noble.

The club also pulled a masterstroke of PR by signing former Wales and British Lions skipper Gareth Thomas from rugby union, the first openly gay British rugby player in either code.

Thomas may have been knocked cold by Catalan Dragons' David Ferriol on his debut, but the veteran union star soon learned his new trade in league, and became a more than competent centre, as well as a tremendous ambassador for the sport.

Former Great Britain coach Noble took the team, which included a whole host of journeyman Antipodeans along with Thomas and newly unearthed nuggets like Jarrod Sammut, to the play-offs at the end of that first season in Wrexham.

The financial collapse which marred the close season also wrecked new coach Iestyn Harris's chances of consistent success on the pitch though, and the team were a long way from achieving similar success in 2011.

The four-point penalty they received for going into administration did not help, but the off-field distractions proved too much in the end for a group of players whose discipline had showed signs of fraying.

The way in which the club's Super League licence was withdrawn though was surprising to say the least. A last-minute confirmation that the club had withdrawn their application for a licence due to financial considerations shocked everyone in the game, not least the club's playing staff, who had to find new clubs.

But there was also tremendous hope amidst the despair in the story. The way in which the community in Wrexham rallied to demonstrate their support for the doomed club provided some evidence to support the assertion that the North Welsh town was now a rugby league stronghold.

The final game at the Racecourse Ground also saw touching scenes from the supporters, who behaved impeccably even as they invaded the pitch to applaud the players off.

With a new club formed from the ashes, set to play in Championship One in 2011, rugby league in Wrexham looks set to put down some real roots in the beautiful ruins of a short Super League spell.

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