JONNY WALKER believes North Wales Crusaders are proving a point to those who ‘wrote off’ their League One chances.
The Wrexham-based outfit are on the brink of clinching a spot in the Super Eights when the division splits in two.
Crusaders produced arguably their best performance of the campaign in last week’s 32-14 defeat at the hands of unbeaten leaders Toulouse, who are a full-time side.
Crusaders now face Coventry Bears on Sunday at Chester’s Hare Lane (2.30pm) with both The Racecourse and Cefn Druids’ The Rock currently unavailable for use.
Wins from Sunday’s clash and next weekend’s trip to Hunslet Hawks would secure Anthony Murray’s side a spot in the Super Eights, and long-serving prop Walker believes it would be a fitting reward for the hard work which has gone on since the squad lost several key players in pre-season due to a ‘significant paycut’ imposed on the playing staff.
The likes of Joe Burke, Karl Ashall and Jamie Dallimore left the club, but have since been replaced by Billy Brickhill, Earl Hurst, Simon Atherton and Kenny Baker, who have made the step up from the amateur game.
“I think we’d been written off by everybody at the start of the season with everything that happened off the pitch,” he said. “We got our heads down, got back to the business of winning games and we’ve brought in some really good players to boost the squad.
“We’re in a good position, we’d have taken knowing it’s in our hands at this stage. If we can get into that top eight then I think there will be a few other teams quite worried about the prospect of playing us. We’re improving each week and we’re almost at full strength now for the first time in ages.
“I thought we were fantastic last week. The previous week they put over 80 points on Keighley, that shows the sort of quality they have.
“We’ve given them a really good game. They were very clinical, every chance they had they took. But on another day if they hadn’t quite been 100 per cent, I think we’d have beaten them. It just shows the levels we can perform to.
“If we produce that kind of performance against any other team in the league, I’d back us to beat them.”
The defeat to Toulouse will always be remembered as a special day for Walker, with the game marking his 100th appearance for Crusaders.
The club captain joins Rob Massam and Tommy Johnson in reaching a century of games for the club, with Andy Moulsdale and Stephen Wild closing in on the milestone.
“It’s always nice to bring up a personal milestone and it meant a lot to bring up 100 appearances for Crusaders,” he explained.
“There’s five of us with myself, Rob, Tommy, Wildy and Andy Moulsdale who have either got to 100 or are close and it’s nice to still be playing with the lads who were here when Crusaders was set up.
“It’s nice for the club too to have long-serving players. The club have been great and I’ve got to thank the fans who gave me a great reception and baked me a celebratory cake for after the match. I really appreciated that, it made for a special day.”
On Sunday’s game against Coventry, Walker added: “We won’t be underestimating them. They are a good enough side to cause us problems.
“We’re nearly at full strength apart from Scott so I think we can put in another good display.”
Toulouse host York City Knights tomorrow while on Sunday, Hemel head to Doncaster and Newcastle Thunder host South Wales Scorpions.
Rochdale Hornets face Keighley Cougars, London Skolars head to Gloucestershire All Golds and Barrow Raiders welcome Oxford.