IT'S going to be a tough battle first up for the North Wales Crusaders.

That's the view of head coach Anthony Murray, who is all set for the big League 1 kick-off this weekend.

There's a trip to Spotland on Sunday as the Crusaders begin their new League 1 campaign with a trip to Rochdale Hornets.

Murray, last season's League 1 coach of the year, told the club's Twitter page: "Can't wait!

"We've obviously had a really good cup run.

"Got some decent preparation under our belts, so hopefully really looking forward to the Rochdale game, which will be a real tough task, I've no doubt."

While this weekend marks the start of the league season, 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.

"Hopefully, that's the aim to try and keep improving and keep moving forward and putting a few things right after the Sheffield game," added Murray.

"But that's done now, the Challenge Cup, and we've got to take that sort of early preparation into the league and I'm anticipating a real tough fixture (on Sunday).

"Rochdale are a real physical side.

"They play some real good rugby.

"They boast the likes of Rangi Chase, Fuifui Moimoi and Penky (Sean Penkywicz), all lots of experience, so you know we need to be at our best to get anything at Rochdale and it's sure to be a real good game."

Murray added: "Rochdale will fancy themselves this year of wanting to have a real good league campaign and wanting to be in those play-offs come the end of the season.

"So they will be earmarking this game as a probably must win to set the campaign off on the front foot.

"But also we're going there wanting to set our campaign off on the right foot, so I'm anticipating what will be a real tough task and Rochdale are always really physical at home and we've got to match that."

Continued improvement remains the target for Murray, who stressed: "Since me being here and Alan (Hadcroft) from 2015, our focus has always been to improve each season and in the last sort of three seasons, we've done that.

"We've always moved up a notch in the league table.

"You know, moved up two notches previously to the Covid pandemic and then we finished third last year.

"But that's gone now and we do want to really kick on.

"We don't want it to be a flash in the pan and the players are really working hard for it not to be that.

"But League 1's real tough and there's lots of good teams in it and anybody can beat anyone.

"So we just need to be at our best week in, week out and try and get in those play-offs like everybody else is trying to."

The League 1 season gets underway tomorrow with London Skolars hosting Hunslet.

Sunday: Doncaster v Midland Hurricanes; Oldham v Keighley Cougars; Swinton Lions v West Wales Raiders.