CRUSADERS JET OFF TO PREPARE FOR RHINOS

Celtic Crusaders head for their three-week training camp in Queensland next week with nine new signings as they prepare for their Super League kick off at the Rhinos.

Celtic Crusaders head for their three-week training camp in Queensland next week with nine new signings as they prepare for their Super League kick off at the Rhinos. The Crusaders, who kick off the 2009 season at defending champions Leeds on February 6, have signed six overseas players with 556 appearances in Australia’s National Rugby League between them. Among the other confirmed newcomers are scrum-half Matty Smith and centre Steve Tyrer, who have joined them from St Helens after finishing the 2008 season on loan at Widnes, and former Leeds, Hull and London Broncos utility player Peter Lupton, who spent the last two seasons with Castleford. The Bridgend club’s most high profile capture is prop Mark Bryant, who made his 100th NRL appearance when helping Manly Sea Eagles to victory over Melbourne in October’s grand final. The Crusaders’ other new imports are half-back or hooker Lincoln Withers and three-quarter Marshall Chalk from Canberra Raiders, prop Ryan O’Hara from Wests Tigers, second rower Adam Peek from Cronulla and Cook Islanders’ front row forward Ben Vaeau, who has signed from North Queensland Cowboys. The club have released Paul Ballard, Gareth Dean, Philippe Gardent, Jamie I’Anson, Aaron Summers, Ian Webster and Neale Wyatt. Crusaders coach John Dixon said: "I’m pleased with the squad that we’ve assembled. We’ve maintained continuity on and off the field. "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."