NEW North Wales Crusaders head coach Mike Grady admits he has been ‘surprised’ by the amount of players who have signed up for next season.
Crusaders have been extremely busy in the past six weeks, securing several current key players for the 2017 season including Johnny Walker, Alex Thompson, Lee Hudson, Tommy Johnson and Earl Hurst, as well as snapping up Rochdale Hornets attacking duo Dale Bloomfield and Corey Lee.
In addition, Jack Hansen, Ryan Millington, Simon Atherton and James Dandy have all put pen to paper at Crusaders, who were expected to struggle to retain the services of several key components after well-documented financial troubles during the 2016 season.
However, with former captain Andy Moulsdale now in place as general manager, the Wrexham-based club appear to be moving in the right direction and Grady, appointed as Anthony Murray’s successor, accepts the opening month of his tenure has gone ‘better than expected’.
“I’m delighted with the response from the players who were here already and from the lads we’ve approached to come in,” he said.
“It’s probably gone better than I could have expected and it’s fair to say I’m a little surprised about how much business we’ve been able to get done in a short space of time.
“The club’s financial problems have been well documented, the budget is less than last season and I knew that coming in, there’s been no surprises. But I feel we’re getting things back on track here and I’m really pleased with the shape of the squad.
“I wanted to get the squad sorted as early as possible and getting that core from last season on board was key. They seem a close-knit group given everything that has gone on here, so it’s probably resulted in a few others staying too.
“I’m good mates with Muzza and I had a good chat with him before taking up the job here. I had to have a good think about whether to come to Crusaders but I now think we’ve got a squad together who can be competitive next year.
“It was great to meet the fans at the fans’ forum and I was able to tell them what I’m about and how we’re looking to move forward, so that was really positive.”
Hudson, who was named coach’s and players’ player of the season for 2016, club captain Walker and influential forward Thompson were all highlighted as important re-signings by Grady, who is also elated to secure the services of Rochdale duo Bloomfield and Lee, who left the Hornets after they sealed promotion.
On Crusaders’ senior players, Grady joked: “They are part of the furniture aren’t they! The likes of Alex, Lee, Johnny, they’ve been here for a few years now and are a key part of the club and how we’ll look to play. It says a lot about their character that they’ve decided to stay with Crusaders.
“Rochdale have gone up and there were a few lads available so to get Dale and Corey over here is a big boost. Dale will score you 15 tries a season if he is given the right service.
“Corey is one of the quickest wingers in the league for the past couple of years. Add in Tommy Johnson at full-back and I think you’ve got the makings of one of the best back threes in the league.”