Points For: 357
Points Against: 874
Home Record: W2 L11
Away Record (including Magic weekend): W1 L13
Longest Winning Streak: 1 (x3)
Longest Losing Streak: 11
Top Points Scorer: Josh Hannay (60)
Top Try Scorer: Luke Dyer (6)
Top Tackler: Ryan O’Hara (707)
An interesting first season for Super League’s newest side, which started off with lowered expectations which it’s debatable were even reached. Some good things happened for the Crusaders this year. A lot of bad things also happened. Unfortunately, the bad things really started to pile up towards the end of the season, finally reaching the point where one found it hard to call the Crusaders’ inaugural Super League season a success, even by their relatively modified standards.
In the end, off-field distractions (like having to switch stadiums next year, and that whole visa thing) undermined what could have been a fairly solid first Super League campaign. The Crusaders rarely looked like world beaters, but they didn’t look too out of place and a look at their Seasonogram shows that most of their early season defeats were in the twenty point range – hardly a collection of blowouts (Salford looked much worse at the start of the season). They even managed to win a few games, and in beating Wigan and Bradford they took a few big scalps.
As you can see, most of their season was unfortunately spent losing, and with the off-field stuff finally taking its toll the defeats started getting heavier. The low point was their 68 point blowout to an in-form Leeds side, at which point they had lost the services of six of their key personnel due to visa issues. It was a nadir that had been on the cards for a few weeks as the pressures of Super League were clearly beginning to show on what had been a risky proposition in the first place. Luckily for the Crusaders they have a few more years at least to patch things up, which they definitely will need to do if they are to be a Super League force.
Although their defense was definitely leaky at times, Celtic will perhaps need to prioritize finding a cutting edge to compete next year. They were shut out in four separate games which is simply unacceptable, and their top try scorer finished with six tries which is simply not enough. It probably doesn’t help from a spectator’s point of view either. They also seemed to rely on too many sub-standard players and cast-offs from other clubs, and I’m not sure if it was in the interests of those players. I think it’s quite clear now that St Helens don’t figure for keeping Matty Smith in their plans except for emergencies, which is a shame because his development has been hindered behind a beaten pack.
Of course, one of the curious side effects of the turmoil that ended their season was that more Welsh youngsters ended up playing. What would be good next year would be if there was a stable environment for them to develop in. Hopefully the move to Neath will allow that next year. For the Crusaders to be successful next year they need to recruit some top line talent, and also to get a coach. Rumours of Brian Noble are interesting, and he could probably help provide stability, but I’m not sure he’s the guy to help with junior development. Basically, it’s important that the Crusaders learn from their rough experiences next year, because there’s only so many seasons like this in a row that a club can take.