STUART REARDON’S fantastic career in rugby league will be celebrated at his testimonial match tomorrow (2pm) at Queensway Stadium, Wrexham.
Sixteen years on from making his debut for Yorkshire outfit West Bowling, the North Wales Crusaders’ full-back has been granted a testimonial to herald a fine career in the sport, which included a spell at Super League outfit Bradford Bulls, who he helped win the Grand Final in 2003, beating Wigan in the showpiece encounter.
The 34-year-old, who has recently returned to the Crusaders’ first-team after suffering a bicep injury, will be retiring at the end of the current League One season with The Racecourse side.
Tomorrow’s testimonial match will kick off at 2pm at the Queensway Stadium and the fun begins at 11am with games involving junior teams from Chester Gladiators, North Wales Crusaders and Flintshire Falcons.
“I’m really grateful to the RFL and Crusaders for helping to organise my testimonial, especially Crusaders given the financial position with the club,” said Reardon,
“There’s some old players - like myself - who will be playing, some former team-mates at West Bowling, plenty of Crusaders lads, so it should be a great day out for everyone involved.
“It’s certainly come full circle, from coming through the ranks at West Bowling to now playing them again with Crusaders, having had a fantastic career in between.
“It’s my 16th and final season now. I work as a personal trainer now and I’ve got the modelling work too, so I’ve decided to give the rugby up this year as it’s not really worth the risk of getting injured.
“I absolutely love rugby but sometimes your body and mind tells you to do the right thing and I think retiring from rugby is the best thing now.”
Reardon highlighted Crusaders’ promotion winning campaign in 2013 as his highlight during his four years with the club, although relegation the following year was ‘tough to take’.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time at Crusaders, we’ve had some real highs and lows,” he explained.
“Promotion was obviously brilliant, the cup win last year, but we’ve also suffered relegation which is never easy to take.
“It’s been a club where we’ve always struggled to compete financially but then that’s the same for a lot of teams in League One. Obviously the past few months it really came to a head and unfortunately a lot of playing staff left, but I’m confident Anthony Murray is doing a great job and can re-build this side with young players who can play for Crusaders for years to come.
“There’s a massive potential here and it’s important rugby league in north Wales continues. Wrexham’s a football town but the fanbase is there, we were getting crowds of 1,500 when we were doing well and when we won promotion.
“I’ve established a good relationship with the fans and hopefully they will come out to support the day tomorrow, and I’ll be donating 15 per cent of the gate receipts to the club.”
Crusaders are closing in on the top eight in League One after a 16-16 draw at York City Knights extended their three-game unbeaten run, and Reardon added: “We had a very tough game at York but I think we showed we can mix it with the best sides in the division.
“The young lads who have come in have really bought into the Crusaders way of thinking . There’s plenty of Welsh players in there now as well and I think we can go on improving as a team.”
Rochdale Hornets can extend their lead at the top of the table if they beat struggling South Wales Scorpions on Sunday.
Second-placed Keighley Cougars head to London Skolars in tomorrow’s only game while tonight, York City Knights make the trip to Newcastle Thunder.
On Sunday, winless Oxford go to Doncaster while Toulouse make the long trip to Barrow Raiders.
Hemel Stags host Coventry Bears and Hunslet Hawks head to Gloucestershire All Golds.