ALEX THOMPSON believes silverware at the end of the season would help reward ‘loyalty’ at North Wales Crusaders.
Several senior players - including Thompson, Rob Massam, Tommy Johnson, Stephen Wild and Jonny Walker - stuck with the club at the start of the 2016 League One campaign despite a ‘significant paycut’ imposed on the playing and coaching staff.
Crusaders now find themselves in a position where one win from their final three league fixtures will secure a spot in the end-of-season League One Shield final, and ahead of Sunday’s clash with Coventry Bears at Chester’s Hare Lane (2.30pm), the 26-year-old centre believes a final berth would be a more than deserved result.
“It would be good to get some silverware at the end of the year after the season we’ve had,” Thompson said.
“I could’ve gone to other clubs at the start of the season but I’ve stuck with Crusaders out of loyalty to the club, the fans, and to Anthony (Murray), so it’d be nice to be able to have something to show for our efforts at the end of the year.
“For myself, Tommy (Johnson), Rob (Massam), Jonny (Walker), the old guard if you like, we’ve displayed a lot of loyalty by staying and it’d be great to be rewarded with the Shield trophy.
“I think we’ve played well in the main, we’ve drawn with York, pushed the likes of Doncaster and Toulouse close. But we’re too inconsistent, that’s been our problem this season.
“We’ve got the players, the squad has a great mix of youth and experience, some real talented lads in there. But we’ll play well for 20 minutes, then have a bad 20 minutes. We don’t string the performance together for the full 80 minutes.
“We’ve got the players and the plays to get it right, we just need to do so more consistently.”
Thompson missed last weekend’s 30-14 defeat at Newcastle Thunder - Crusaders’ likely Shield final opponents - with a knee problem, but expects to be fit for Sunday.
The former Oxford man has been in the wars this season, having suffered a hip injury and an inflamed intestine following the 35-30 defeat against Hunslet.
“I took a tackle against Hunslet but it felt okay afterwards, but then I woke on Monday morning with a swollen stomach and really bad stomach cramps,” he explained.
“I went in and they said I’ve got an inflamed intestine, which can get quite serious if it’s not treated. It can get infected but it seems fine now. It’s a common injury amongst boxer’s when they get punched in the stomach.
“I’ve had a little issue with my knee and I tweaked it against Hemel. I tried to train before Newcastle but it wasn’t right and Muzz just said to rest up for the Coventry game, especially knowing if we win we’re in the final.
“I’ve had a dodgy hip earlier this season too so I’ve felt like I’ve had every injury in the book! But it all feels okay ahead of Coventry and I want to be a part of what is a massive game.”
Now in the second tier of the division following the mid-season split, Thompson admits Coventry will provide a stern test.
He also moved to praise Chester for the ‘warm welcome’ they have afforded Crusaders in recent weeks, but hopes the club can make a permanent return to The Racecourse for next season, with the club’s board currently unsure as to where Crusaders will play their rugby in 2017.
“Coventry will be a tougher game than many people think, it’s not long ago we drew with them,” he added. “They are the top team in the south now but if we do what we’re capable of then we should be looking to defeat them, especially at home.
“We’ve had a really warm welcome at Chester, it’s been good. Although it’s not The Racecourse and I would like to see us make every effort to get back there because for me, Wrexham is our home ground and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
“But the club has gone through a tough couple of years and if we have to move to Chester permanently then as a group of players we’ll have to get on with it.”
Newcastle head to Oxford in the Shield tomorrow before Hemel Stags go to Gloucestershire All Golds on Sunday.
In the Super Eights, leaders Toulouse visit Doncaster while Keighley Cougars host London Skolars. Struggling York City Knights head to Rochdale Hornets and Hunslet Hawks visit Barrow Raiders.
See full story in the Leader