Crusaders look up after trading down under

THE Celtic Crusaders will launch the latest attempt to establish a professional club in Wales on February 12 when they face London Skolars at Bridgend's Brewery Field in the Northern Rail Cup. It is more than nine years since the demise of the one-season South Wales Dragons, but the Crusaders chief executive Chris O'Callaghan, a former Aberavon rugby union player and coach, insists that the new club's priority will be earning promotion from National League Two as part of a plan to reach the Super League.The Crusaders are backed by Leighton Samuel, the businessman behind the Celtic Warriors union franchise that was wound up last year, and have recruited John Dixon from Wayne Bennett's Brisbane Broncos staff to work with the former Wales international Kevin Ellis.Dixon has signed six Australian players who will arrive this week and, according to O'Callaghan, form "the spine" of an otherwise Welsh squad. [The Australian players are understood to include Michael Ryan, Tony Duggan, Damien Quinn, Jace Van Dijk and Matt Jobson.] Dixon said: "The most important thing if we're going to get the game going down here is to have a team that can challenge for promotion to National League One straight away."In an ideal world we'd love to have an all-Welsh team but it's a few years too late for us to build a side around the guys who went north like Allan Bateman and John Devereux. So we've gone to Australia rather than the north of England to get the spine of our team, although there is plenty of local talent coming through the Conference clubs down here to build around."The Crusaders have been given a highly favourable draw in the Northern Rail Cup being involved in a new southern group which includes St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, two largely amateur clubs from National League Three. But their first National League game on April 9 is a tough outing at Workington, one of their likely promotion rivals."It's a big challenge for us because there's no easy way of getting up there," added O'Callaghan. "We've done all the logistics and even if we fly to Glasgow or Newcastle it's still a two-hour drive at least, so we'll be having an overnight stay and preparing properly. We are expecting nothing less than a major war."The fixtures for the National League's First Division, which are also officially released today, feature a Good Friday derby between Leigh and Widnes, the two clubs relegated from the Super League last season, in the second round of matches.Leigh's former coach Darren Abram, who left by mutual consent in August six weeks before they were relegated, has been appointed to succeed Bobbie Goulding at Rochdale Hornets. Abram's first game in charge will be in the Northern Rail Cup at home to Oldham, another of his former clubs.- - - - -Andy Wilson is the rugby league writer for The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK. We thank them both in reproducing Andy's article here.

TRYTime - playing for one Christmas only

THERE'S a new game on the block this Christmas, it's a rugby league game, it's called TRYTime, and like a fine wine, there is more to it than first meets the eye.The gaming experience, and it is an experience, starts when you are handed the stylish box."It was important for us to create a game which exceeded the expectations of all our customers, we are constantly disappointed by the quality and ingenuity of modern toys and games, and we refuse to compromise on quality." says Richard Woodward, the games chief designer.The next thing which strikes you is that the game is heavy, but then with the solid plastic box, game board, player holders, ball, ball slider, dice, 8 unique game pieces, money, 600+ cards - you get the gist, you can see why.Absolutely everything about TRYTime oozes class, from the game components right through to the game play. It is highly unusual for a game to work as well with 2 players as it does with more, yet TRYTime does just this."It is true that we are very excited about how the game looks, but it really is the games sharp play and cohesion we are most proud of. We set out with the goal of creating a unique and enthralling game dedicated to the sport we love, but it turned out to be so much more than that. We see TRYTime now more as one of those once in a lifetime products, the ones which get people really excited, the gaming equivalent of the iPod."So what does the future look like for TRYTime?"TRYTime - Rugby League is a one off, we won't be producing any more in 2006 or beyond. We will continue to produce updated player packs and team charts, but we will be turning our attention to other sports in the New Year, with an Australian Rugby League version with NRL players included, American Football, Rugby Union and a special World Cup football version of the game all on the agenda for release in 2006 or 2007. We launched first with GB Rugby League as it's the game we are most passionate about."And you can certainly tell that.TRYTime is a fantasy board game based on the English Super League. It is available through League Unlimited and as a special offer to our readers, each order will recieve a FREE League Unlimited mousemat.For more info, please CLICK HERE.

Great Britain claim 3 places in World 13

THREE of Great Britain's Tri-Nations line-up have been named in this season's World XIII. Keiron Cunningham, Stuart Fielden and Jamie Peacock were all included in the side unveiled in the December issue of Rugby League world magazine. There are just two New Zealanders in the side - Lesley Vainikolo and Ruben Wiki - despite their Tri-Nations win. Australia make up the majority of the team even after their 24-0 defeat to the Kiwis on Saturday. The World XIII is selected by journalists from all the major league-playing nations. Rugby league World XIII 2005:A Minichiello (Australia); B Tate (Australia), M Gasnier (Australia), M Cooper (Australia); L Vainikolo (New Zealand); D Lockyer (Australia), A Johns (Australia); S Fielden (Great Britain), K Cunningham (Great Britain), R Wiki (New Zealand), C Fitzgibbon (Australia), J Peacock (Great Britain), B Kennedy (Australia).

Huddersfield Giants Announce pre-season games

THE Giants have today released full details of their pre-season programme in the build up to engage Super League XI. A highlight of the pre season fixtures will be the visit of Robbie Paul's old club when the Bradford Bulls come to the Galpharm on Sunday the 22nd of January (3:00pm). The Giants will also visit engage Super League new boys Castleford Tigers on the 29th of January as well as taking part in the Infirmary Cup match at Halifax and Kris Radlinski's Testimonial game at Wigan on the 2nd of February.Speaking about the fixtures, Giants Head Coach Jon Sharp commented:"We are absolutely delighted with our pre-season games. We will get some tough tests against 3 engage Super League teams and the boys should be well prepared when we visit the Leeds Rhinos for the first round of the engage Super League." Full Pre Season FixturesMonday 2nd January- Halifax RLFC- Away- Kick Off 3:00pmSunday 22nd January- Bradford Bulls- Home- Kick Off 3:00pmSunday 29th January- Castleford Tigers- Away- Kick Off 3:30pmThursday 2nd February- Wigan Warriors- Away- Kick Off 7:45pmSunday 5th February- Batley Bulldogs- Away- Kick Off 3:00pm

Round Eleven: Sharks Den Survivor

AS we've come to expect, Cronulla had their fans on the verge of a massive heart attack in another close encounter on the weekend. Despite holding a considerable lead, an Andrew Walker led Manly tore their way back into the game, and were it not for an askew kick at goal, would have almost certainly lost the game in extra time.

Raiders pair fined for public fight

CANBERRA pair Brad Drew and Luke Davico were fined a "fairly significant" amount by their National Rugby League club following an early morning fracas in Canberra.

Interview with Bob Jones

IN the first of a series of interviews with past and present Redcliffe players I had the pleasure to catch up with Dolphin legend Bob Jones. Bob came to Redcliffe from Gunnedah in 1975 to play with the Dolphins and has been here ever since except for 1977 when he went to Sydney to play for the Roosters in the then Sydney competition.

Russians have one left in NZ

WITH one match to go on their short tour to New Zealand, Russia will be looking to finish it off in fine style when they line up to play Otago on ANZAC day tomorrow. Boosting a record of 1 win and 2 losses form their three matches, the Russians have shown that they can compete and that they are learning new things from their tour. Giving the 26 players each a game have been the elusive goal set by the Russian rugby league team. The results of the 4 games against New Zealand clubs will determine the players for the national team in 2004. It provides the Bears the chance to learn a different style of the game before the Bears annual Victory Cup tournament in Moscow, which also involves Ireland, the United States, France, England and a New Zealand Defence Forces team.

Big Games for Taranaki Teams in Round 8 of the Western Alliance Competition

ROUND 8 of the Western Alliance Competition continues this Saturday with three home games in the region and with some close encounters expected.

Team to face London Broncos

WIGAN Warriors v London Broncos - Sunday 25th April 2004 at The JJB Stadium - 3pm KO

Skolars Skool report

SKOLARS RESERVES AIM TO WIN BACK TO BACK CUPS The London Skolars reserves are aiming to hold onto the clubs silverwear when they take on Gateshead in the final of the Conference Cup in Derby on Sunday. The Skolars won the final last year and are favourites to regain the trophy after an impressive victory last weekend against South London which qualifiedthem for the final. With the Skolars NL2 side having the weekend off, coach Stu Singleton can pick from a large squad of regular second teamers and a number of players who have NL2 experience but have also played at the conference level this season.

Sharks Victorious In Golden Point Thriller

SHARKS centre Nigel Vagana put the demons from last night's test match to rest after he scored the match winning try in golden point extra time as the Sharks beat the Eels 18-14 in a thriler at Parramatta Stadium.

Crunch time for joint venture

CRUNCH time for Illawarra's involvement in the St George Illawarra joint venture is drawing closer with the National Rugby League set to offer a new licence sooner rather than later.

Storm overpower Cowboys

THE Melbourne Storm have put in a polished performance disposing of North Queensland Cowboys 28-6 at Olympic Park tonight.

Raiders hold on but look shaky

THE Canberra Raiders have run out unconvincing 19-18 winners over the Newcastle Knights at a chilly Canberra Stadium this evening.

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