ANTHONY MURRAY admits it would be ‘fantastic’ to end his time as North Wales Crusaders head coach with a trophy.
The Racecourse outfit head to Kingston Park on Sunday (5.15pm) to face Newcastle Thunder in the League One Shield final in what will be Murray’s last game in charge after he and assistant coach Alan Hadcroft announced they would be leaving the club.
Crusaders finished runners-up to unbeaten Newcastle in the Shield season but that counts for nothing this weekend according to Murray, who wants his side to bow out with another piece of silverware in the trophy cabinet, having claimed the League One Cup in 2015.
“It’s a great chance to end what has been a difficult year on a high and claim another piece of silverware for Crusaders,” said Murray, who revealed Earl Hurst is doubtful with a groin injury.
“The players have done fantastically well to reach a final and I think they deserve to add to the club’s list of trophies in recent years. It’d be a fitting way to sign off and I know for a few of the lads it will be an emotional time after the game.
“Newcastle are favourites and rightly so, their form in the Shield has been fantastic and they beat us fair and square last time out. We beat them in March but that means nothing now, it’s all about who performs on the day.
“This is cup final rugby, it is about big performances from big individuals on the day and the best side on the day, not across the season, will win.
“Newcastle have been right up there but we’ve proven we can mix it with the best teams in this division. It’s knockout rugby and the kind of match you want to be involved in.
“It’ll be mixed emotions for myself. I am sad my time at the club is coming to an end but it’s the right time to move on and hopefully Crusaders can get themselves sorted out. The board have the best interests of the club at heart.”
Crusaders qualified for the final with an 18-4 win over Gloucestershire All Golds before thrashing Oxford 37-6 last weekend, conceding just two tries in the process. Murray believes his side are showing positive signs ahead of their final clash.
“We looked like the Crusaders of old and I know people will say ‘you only played Oxford and Gloucester’ but in my opinion that’s disrespectful to both those sides,” he continued.
“Gloucestershire made us work very hard all game and Oxford were coming off three wins in their past four matches, and they had us on the back foot for long periods of the game. So to only concede two tries over the two matches was impressive and our defensive line was what I liked to see.
“Once we created scoring opportunities, we played some really nice rugby in hand and opened them up to score. So it was pleasing to watch but we’ll need to be at our best against Newcastle as they’ve blown sides away during the Shield.”
Murray was also keen to pay tribute to legendary second row Stephen Wild, who is retiring from rugby league after Sunday’s final.
Wild, who has been at Crusaders since 2014, played over 250 Super League matches for Wigan, Huddersfield and Salford, and has represented Great Britain against Australia and New Zealand.
“What can you say about a guy like Steve Wild, he’s an immense player and a fantastic person,” Murray added.
“He’s been a great servant to Crusaders and I know everybody connected with the club won’t have a bad word said about him.
“You don’t play over 250 Super League games or play for your country if you’re a bad bloke, and Steve is one of the best people you could ever wish to play rugby with or coach.
“I feel privileged to say I’ve coached Stephen Wild and I know everyone at Crusaders wishes him all the best for his future in or outside of the game.”