JONNY WALKER admits a host of North Wales Crusaders’ players could soon be heading for the exit door.
Head coach Anthony Murray and his assistant Alan Hadcroft announced last weekend they would be stepping down from their roles at the end of the current campaign, which ends a week on Sunday with the League One Shield final away at Newcastle Thunder.
With question marks over the financial future of the club and fresh investment being sought as a matter of urgency, club captain and long-serving prop Walker accepts that first-team regulars may be forced to consider their options in the close season.
“The final will be an emotional one for quite a few reasons because it could well be the final appearance for a lot of players,” said Walker, speaking ahead of Sunday’s away trip to Oxford.
“There’s a lot of decisions going on behind the scenes and we know the board have the club’s best interests at heart and are trying to secure investment.
“But as players, you have to consider your options and if other clubs come calling then I imagine it’ll be hard for the club to keep hold of some of our better players.
“I will be making a decision, it’ll be a tough decision and if I do choose to leave Crusaders then it will be with a heavy heart because I absolutely love the club and the fans. So we’ll wait and see what happens after Newcastle, but it’d be nice to win it for Muzza and Alan and to round off the season with some silverware because we play rugby to win trophies.
“I’m not making my mind up before the end of the season and I want to see what Crusaders decide to do first.
“It’s only fair to see what they come up with and who they look to bring in as head coach. But at the end of the day, I need to do what’s right for myself and my family.”
There is no pressure on Crusaders for Sunday’s away clash at Oxford but Walker wants his fellow players to maintain the high standards they set in last week’s 18-4 victory over Gloucestershire All Golds.
“We’re looking to build on the performance against Gloucestershire. I thought it was a much-improved defensive performance so we want to build on that and maintain our defensive work, while improving in an attacking sense ahead of the final,” he added. “Oxford provide a tough test but if we stick to our structures, we’re confident we can make it back-to-back wins which will put is a strong position heading up to Newcastle.
“We had a close game against Newcastle about a month ago and I believe we can go up there and turn them over.”
Former Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back Lee Byrne has set his sights on taking South Wales into Super League after being unveiled as the club's new director of rugby.
Officials say Byrne's appointment will signal the dawn of a new era for the League One club who have changed their name to Ironmen after competing for the past decade as South Wales Scorpions and will relocate to Wern Sports Park, home of Merthyr RFC, for 2017.
Byrne, who started his career playing both codes of rugby - union for Bridgend Athletic and league Bridgend Blue Bulls - hung up his boots in April 2015 at the age of 34 after failing to recover from a shoulder injury.
“It's great to have this opportunity to continue my rugby career as part of a brand new project developing rugby league in South Wales,” said Byrne. “The South Wales Ironmen have a huge opportunity to make an impact.
“The ultimate goal is to be promoted to Super League. But let's remember even this (next) season we are playing in an international league with the likes of Canada's Toronto Wolfpack which is exciting for rugby fans right across Wales.”