CRUSADERS offered jailed rugby league ace Gareth Raynor a fresh contract when he finished his sentence.

But the 32-year-old star has passed up the chance to return to the Racecourse and has signed instead for Super League rivals Bradford Bulls.

Former Great Britain international Raynor was jailed for 15 months last May after pleading guilty to 14 counts of fraud and counterfeiting in a case brought about by trading standards officials in Yorkshire.

Bosses at Wrexham-based Crusaders said at the time the club had reluctantly terminated his contract with immediate effect but they added they would be looking to re-sign him at the end of his prison term.

However, this week it was revealed Raynor, who is due for release in December, has signed a one-year deal with Bradford Bulls and could join them for pre-season training if he is granted a temporary licence.

Asked how they felt about this, a spokesman for Crusaders said: “Gareth Raynor was offered a new Crusaders deal upon completing his prison sentance.
“However, he has opted to sign for Bradford Bulls instead.”

It is understand the reason he chose the Yorkshire side is that it is nearer to Hull where his family still lives.

He told a rugby league magazine: “I’m very grateful to Bradford Bulls for the opportunity to get back playing Super League.

“I can't wait to pull on the shirt and start repaying the club’s faith in me in the best way I can, by scoring tries.”

Raynor spent his time in prison in South Yorkshire helping to organise football and rugby games, where he has refereed rather than played.

His internet ink cartridge scam, run from his home in Brough on the outskirts of Hull, was worth more than £36,500.

He was sentenced to nine months for the scam, plus six months for breaching a suspended sentence received in July 2008 for racially aggravated assault.

The winger scored four tries in seven appearances for Crusaders after joining the Racecourse club at the start of this season, but missed a number of matches caused by a whiplash injury.

In 158 appearances for Hull he scored 92 tries.

Bulls chairman Peter Hood said: “Gareth is an international wing who will add significant extra fire-power to the Bulls outside backs division next season.

“The regime that Gareth’s been living during his sentence has enabled him to maintain his core strength and fitness and his appetite for the game remains undiminished.

“We will be working to ensure that Gareth’s rehabilitation is swift and complete and that, as a Bradford Bull, he will soon put himself in contention to reclaim his England jersey.”