NORTH Wales Crusaders' head coach Anthony Murray still gets excited when the start of a new league season comes around.

It's a trip to Spotland on Sunday as the Crusaders kick-off their new League 1 campaign with a trip to Rochdale Hornets.

With just a few days left to go until the bread-and-butter of the league gets underway, Murray - last season's League 1 coach of the year - says he's full of anticipation.

"Definitely. I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

"League 1 just gets better each year.

"New teams come into it most seasons, like Cornwall and Coventry repackaging themselves.

"That will be interesting to see how that makes the competition.

"I'm always apprehensive a bit.

"We didn't have a good start last year and we picked up midway through the season and went on a strong winning run.

"The key is we want to start well this year."

While the league fixtures are about to begin, it's already been a busy season for the Crusaders.

They've already participated in four competitive matches, helping them to reach the fifth round of this season's Challenge Cup.

A win at Leigh Miners in the second round set up a trip to League 1 rivals Swinton Lions, with the Crusaders coming out on top after an enthralling encounter.

North Wales then eased past Hunslet in the next round, before the run was ended by a 50-30 reverse in a home thriller versus Championship side and former cup winners Sheffield Eagles.

These matches have allowed Murray to take a close look at his new signings - and he's been pleased with what he's seen.

Harry Swarbrick was one of the new additions from Championship club Barrow Raiders ahead of the 2022 campaign.

Murray added: "Harry Swarbrick has made the right centre his own this season.

"He's played really well and I think there's more to come.

"The early signs have been really good and we could understand why Barrow didn't want to lose him.

"Pat Rainford, who was in the amateur / community game, he's been ever-present through the cup competition and held his own and played really well."

Kieran Sherratt has also impressed, while there have not been many opportunities for Reece Briers, with Murray adding: "I've no doubt once he gets an opportunity, he will show what he can do."

On the squad at his disposal this season, Murray said: "It was massively important after last season we retained a large majority of the squad."

Warren Thompson and Karl Ashall both retired, while Ben Morris wasn't able to commit to the Crusaders as he had done previously.

"They were the only three people we lost," added Murray.