STUART REARDON has thanked the ‘fantastic people’ connected with North Wales Crusaders after announcing his retirement.

The 34-year-old veteran utility back has been forced to call time on his career due to a serious shoulder injury and a major bicep tear, with both issues requiring surgery, ahead of Crusaders’ League One encounter at Hunslet Hawks on Sunday (2.30pm).

Sixteen years on from making his debut for Yorkshire outfit West Bowling, Reardon, pictured, bows out from the sport, which included two spells at Super League outfit Bradford Bulls who he helped win the Grand Final in 2003, beating Wigan in the showpiece encounter.

Reardon played 88 times for the Bulls, scoring 37 tries, and also made 48 appearances for Warrington Wolves between 2005-09.

He joined the former Super League side Crusaders in 2011, making an instant impact with 11 tries in 26 matches, but left for a season at AS Carcassonne in 2012. 

However, he soon returned to The Racecourse in 2013 and has since enjoyed three and a half seasons with the Wrexham club, establishing himself as a firm fans’ favourite.

Reardon, who has forged a successful modelling career and is also a personal trainer, revealed he could not put off the surgery any longer due to his day job being based around his gym work.

“I wanted to go out on my own terms at the end of the season, but it’s happened this way unfortunately,” he explained.

“I spoke to Anthony (Murray, head coach) and explained my position and he completely understood and said to do what is right. 

“But my body is telling me it’s time to retire.

“I played a few times recently for Crusaders but quickly realised I needed to get this injury sorted. 

“It needs fixing as I can’t do weights at the moment and that prevents me from getting work.

“I’ve had some great years with Crusaders and it’s a club full of fantastic people. 

“I’ve had a brilliant time and the relationship with the fans has always been a great part of being a Crusaders player.

“It’s been a good career, I’ve been lucky to play at the top level and in Super League. 

“But I’ve loved my time at Crusaders and it’s just a shame I’ve not had the chance to complete my final season. 

“I wish them all the best.”

On his personal highlights during his time in Wrexham, Reardon picked out the 2013 season as one to remember.

“The year we got promoted in 2013 was brilliant under Clive (Griffiths, former head coach). 

“We only lost once, we won the cup and gained promotion, you can’t ask for much more!

“We did really well in the Championship the following season but the restructuring of the league meant we were demoted the following year, but those were a really good two years.”

After a tumultuous pre-season which saw several senior players leave Crusaders due to a ‘significant paycut’ imposed by the board, Reardon has been encouraged by the recent upturn in form for Anthony Murray’s side and believes the future on and off the field is improving.

“I’ve been really impressed by the young lads Muzz has brought in, they’ve slotted in nicely and don’t look out of place against the best teams in League One,” added Reardon, who won four caps for Great Britain. 

“Some of the recent performances have been awesome and hopefully the future of the team is bright.

“Obviously things need to be sorted off the pitch and I’m sure the board are working to secure the financial future of the club. 

“It’s a fantastic club and I just hope it can be resolved.”

Crusaders need an unlikely favour from Hemel Stags if they are to qualify for the top eight.

Basement outfit Hemel, who have won just one of their 13 league matches this season, need to beat Newcastle Thunder if Crusaders are to have a chance of reaching the top tier when the league splits after this weekend.

Sixth placed Keighley Cougars host York City Knights, who sit third in the table, while struggling Gloucestershire All Golds travel to third from bottom Oxford. 

South Wales Scorpions visit Coventry Bears, who will fancy their chances of victory, and leaders Toulouse travel to London Skolars.