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Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Life not all a beach for new boys

by Gareth Roberts

Crusaders captain Jace Van Dijk and Matty Smith enjoy the beach at the Gold Coast
Crusaders captain Jace Van Dijk and Matty Smith enjoy the Gold Coast

The heat and humidity of eastern Australia is a sharp contrast to the frosty rugby pitches of south Wales, but it is here that Bridgend's Celtic Crusaders are preparing for their first Super League season.

Not that the Crusaders are down under for anything remotely resembling a holiday with coach John Dixon and his players doing all in their power to ensure they are ready for the first game in the top flight - against Leeds in the New Year.

Overcoming a fear of sharks and boxing workouts have been part of the training so far which takes in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise.

Part of that process has been undertaken at Brisbane's Griffith University, named after Merthyr Tydfil-born Samuel Griffith, who became a leading Queensland politician and legislator before his death in 1920.

Not that Griffith would have recognised the educational establishment named after him and particularly the gymnasium where the Crusaders have been working on power and strength.

The Crusaders train in the sun at the Gold Coast in their pre-season camp
The Crusaders train in the sun at the Gold Coast in their pre-season camp
Described as 'world class' on Crusaders' football manager Anthony Seibold's training camp blog, the gym has been central to the work of Crusaders' French-born strength and conditioning coach Thibault Giroud.

But Giroud has also had to endure a test of strength, fearing as Seibold's blog suggests the dangers that allegedly lurk beneath the waves at Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast.

But after all the 0645 starts to 12-hour days training either in the sun, the gym or amid spectacular thunderstorms in the heat, taking to the seas to help ease the aches and pains has been understandable.

However, it took the goading of assistant coach Kevin Ellis to persuade Giroud to fight his inner fear of a shark attack and enjoy a splash-about with the rest of the players.

If Giroud's mettle has been tested, then so has Steve Tyrer's, the player signed on-loan for a season from St Helens deemed to need some confidence for the physical contact aspects of defensive duties.

Tyrer's task was to go five two-minute rounds with Australian junior welterweight champion Chris McMullen.

The fact Tyrer lasted the bout was an achievement in itself, admitting as he did: "The session was so tough and I have a great respect for anyone who can do that for a living. I had nothing left in the tank as the rounds went by."

Seibold said: "Steve really dug in during the bout as his opponent was fast and powerful and had plenty of ability but Steve showed his power and attitude as he stuck to the task.

"It wasn't a session for the faint-hearted and Steve earned the respect of all by his attitude in getting into the ring."

That is precisely the attitude the Crusaders will need, starting on Friday 6 February against defending Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.

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see also
Life not all a beach for new boys
11 Dec 08 |  Celtic Crusaders
Crusaders to start against Leeds
23 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
New recruits strengthen Crusaders
26 Nov 08 |  Celtic Crusaders

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