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Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

New recruits strengthen Crusaders

Scrum-half Matty Smith
Scrum-half Matty Smith has come through the St Helens ranks

Celtic Crusaders have unveiled nine new signings as they strengthen for their first season in Super League.

Coach John Dixon has attracted several experienced players from his native Australia and also recruited exciting scrum-half Matty Smith from St Helens.

The 21-year-old had been seen as the heir-apparent to Sean Long but will seek to establish himself in Bridgend.

Lincoln Withers, Marshall Chalk, Adam Peek, Ryan O'Hara, Ben Vaeau and Mark Bryant all arrive from Australia.

"I'm pleased with the squad that we've assembled. We've maintained continuity on and off the field," Dixon said.

"We've retained our coaching staff and the core of players who have served this club so well over the last three years.

"We've addressed the key areas where we believe that we needed to improve as a club and have recruited accordingly.

"I'm happy with the squad and collectively we're looking forward to playing our role in Super League in 2009."

O'Hara, from Wests Tigers, and Bryant, previously with Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, will provide drive and experience at prop.

606: DEBATE

Withers plays at hooker, while his Canberra Raiders team-mate Chalk is a talented utility player equally at home in the back-row or backline having been selected at centre when necessary.

Cook Islander Vaeau can play at prop or second row and arrives from North Queensland Cowboys, while Peek - from Cronulla Sharks - can perform a similar role.

Wing or centre Ste Tyrer arrives with Smith from St Helens, while loose forward Peter Lupton has been signed from Castleford Tigers.

The recruits will add greatly to a squad that finished runners-up in National League One last season, but the arrival of Smith at the Brewery Field is a coup.

The youngster could have had a professional career in football, having been an apprentice at Everton alongside the likes of England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.

Football's loss has been rugby league's gain, with Smith - a goal-kicking number seven - earning rave reviews as he came through the ranks at Knowsley Road.

But the form of Great Britain scrum-half Long has limited Smith to a largely bench role at St Helens and he went out on a loan spell to Widnes last season to play regular first-team rugby.

Tyrer is another exciting youngster, like Smith the 19-year-old is a goal-kicker and also flirted with professional football as a youth goalkeeper with Wigan Athletic.

Now Smith and Tyrer have a chance to establish themselves at the Crusaders as the fledgling Super League team tries to find its feet in the top flight.

In the meantime, Paul Ballard, Gareth Dean, Philippe Gardent, Jamie I'Anson, Aaron Summers, Ian Webster and Neale Wyatt have all left Brewery Field.

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see also
Crusaders to start against Leeds
23 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Widnes sign Saints' Smith on loan
16 Jun 08 |  Rugby League
Celtic Crusaders 18-36 Salford
28 Sep 08 |  Rugby League
Crusaders & Salford win licences
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League


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