WALES head coach John Kear has backed Mike Grady to be a success at North Wales Crusaders.
The former South Wales Scorpions and Newcastle Thunder coach has made the switch to Wrexham ahead of the 2017 season, and the 35-year-old was nominated as League One coach of the year in 2014.
Kear - who is preparing his Wales squad for their vital World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Llanelli on Saturday with a training camp in Deeside - believes Grady is a good appointment at Crusaders, who are set to work on a reduced budget for the 2017 campaign.
“Mike’s worked under great adversity at South Wales and it will allow him to handle things off the field at Crusaders,” said Kear, who has included former Crusaders stars Joe Burke and Christiaan Roets in his 22-man squad.
“He’s gone through the RFL coaching certificates and I think he will add something to the North Wales set-up.
“It’s a concern to the game in general but you have to give credit to the people who have put their hands up to run the club now.
“It’s a bold step to move venue for financial reasons and they’ve made changes in the backroom staff also. If you build the stage I’m sure people will come and watch and I am sure that’s the case at Crusaders.
“It’s vital Crusaders get the support they need. North and south Wales are a long way apart both by road and culturally, it’s hard to realise that being an Englishman. We must be strongly represented by both our professional clubs in Wales.
“South Wales are improving all the time and with new investment I can see them challenging in League One and that can only be good for the national team.”
Kear was appointed national team boss in 2014 and immediately set his sights on reaching the 2017 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, and admits it’s ‘crucial’ for the future of the sport in Wales for his side to win their two qualifiers, which conclude with an away tie in Italy on October 29.
“I think it’s crucial for Wales and for the game in the country,” he said. “There’s only perhaps France, Australia, England and New Zealand where the game is stronger within the boundaries of the country.
“We’re doing many things correctly at a domestic level and being at the World Cup is where we have to be seen. The Serbia and Italy games therefore are absolutely vital.
“We will be challenged physically by Serbia, especially upfront, but we’ve got to be live to the challenge.”
Super League stars Ben Flower and Rhys Evans have both made themselves unavailable for international duty due to their involvement in the Grand Final last weekend but the squad is still packed full of experience including Widnes duo Gil Dudson and Lloyd White, as well as captain Craig Kopczak and London Broncos wing Rhys Williams, who hails from Mynydd Isa.
“Whether it’s a long season in Super League, NRL, league rugby, there’s bound to be bumps and bruises of some players but I’m really pleased with the group we’ve got here for this campaign as we’ve got a mix of youth, experience and quality,” Kear added.
“Last year it made a massive difference to have Super League players in the squad. In 2014 we played with mainly lower league players who were improving all the time, and last year we had the likes of Phil Joseph and Craig Kopczak back in which made such a difference.
“We’re lucky to have Lloyd White and Gil Dudson in the squad this time around and you can just tell there’s that air of composure and confidence within the group with these guys involved.
“Winning the European Championship gives us a great deal of confidence and we know if we prepare correctly we can replicate that.
“The camp has been hugely positive and hopefully we can develop as a team.”