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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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East Cumbria Crusaders earn promotion at first attempt

Carlisle's newest rugby league club have earned promotion just one season after their launch.

East Cumbria Crusaders have been confirmed as moving up to the North East Premier Conference next term after winning 13 of 14 regular league fixtures in the NE Regional Conference this year.

“It’s great news for us, we are very, very pleased,” said chairman Alan Tucker. “The players wanted to go up.”

Crusaders were born after Carlisle Centurions were obliged to exit National League Three in 2010 due to lack of travelling players. The club regrouped under coach Dennis Bibby with a host of younger, inexperienced players, playing out of Creighton RU Club, and they now have over 50 registered players.

“Even more satisfying has been the emergence of coaches, administrators and players for the new junior section under the leadership of former west Cumbrian amateur player Stuart Minnis,” Tucker added.

“Stuart, with the willing support of four others, has been a revelation.

“ Not only has he liaised with several local schools to ensure the game is on their curricula, he has gone in to coach them, trains over 20 junior Crusaders twice a week, lives and breathes rugby league and still finds time for his family and a full-time job.

“After learning the rudiments of the game, an Under-10s team play in their first ever game on October 26 at Gateshead International Stadium.

“Win, lose or draw, this is a remarkable achievement in an area that has had no junior game for seven years and had lost its RFL-funded community coach.

“Plans for next year include regular competitive fixtures for juniors at all age groups.

“At open-age level Crusaders want consolidation in the North East Premier League and, if player-numbers continue to grow, the formation of a second-team to apply for membership of the NE regional competition.”

Junior RL in the city dates back to the 1980s when Carlisle Border Raiders player Gary Schubert assisted by numerous supporters founded an inter-schools competition.

This thrived until the early 1990s when the RFL withdrew funding.

It re-emerged in 1997 with teams at various age groups playing out of Melbourne Park and Morton School under the leadership of former Raiders player Dave Cowgill among others.

The juniors continued as a section of Carlisle Saints ARLFC until that club folded in 2005.

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