OLDHAM new boy Joe Burke was looking for “security and progression” when he chose to leave troubled North Wales Crusaders for a new start under Scott Naylor.
Newport-born Burke (25), who has also played for South Wales Scorpions and Barrow Raiders, was one of seven players to depart Wrexham-based Crusaders as a free agent because the club couldn’t honour its contractual agreements and players were asked to pay cuts.
Also among the seven was former Oldham half-back Jamie Dallimore, who left Whitebank in 2013, Naylor’s first season.
Revealing that Mitchell Cox, Ryan Duffy, Frankie Halton, Danny Jones and Danny Rasool had also gone, a statement on the Crusaders website said: “Everyone at the club would like to place on record their thanks to all of them for their commitment and service.”
Burke, a tall front-rower, was Crusaders’ players’ player of the year in 2015, described in his website profile as having enjoyed a superb debut season in which he could easily put in 80-minute shifts.
He also carried his club form on to the international scene with Wales, standing out, it said, in the Dragons’ European Championships success.
By beating France, Scotland and Will Hope’s Ireland, Wales qualified for the 2017 World Cup in the southern hemisphere and Burke hopes to do enough for Roughyeds this season to be on the Welsh plane to Sydney next year.
“But first and foremost, my aims are to settle in at Oldham; to get to know the other lads; and to get used to the systems that Scott (Naylor) employs,” he said.
“It’s up to me, as the new boy, to do right by the club, by my new team mates and by the coaching staff.
“It’s a sad situation at Crusaders, but it is what it is. It’s a short career and I need a bit of security which I’ll get by joining Oldham.
“By playing in the Championship again (he did that with Barrow in 2014), I’m hoping to get back into the Wales squad, but first of all I’ve got to earn some recognition with my new c,ub, and that’s down to me.
“I told Crusaders I would give it my all until the day I moved on — and I’ve played in each of their five games this year, right up to last Sunday.
“I’m sad to be leaving them in the present situation, but at the end of the day I’ve got to think about security and progression.”
Burke cut his rugby league teeth as a teenager with Newport Titans in the Welsh Conference before joining the then Celtic Crusaders’ under-18s, with whom he won a National Youth League title.
He moved up to Super League side Celtic’s reserve team, but when Celtic relocated to Wrexham he remained in his native South Wales and spent three-and-a-half seasons with Scorpions, making more than 70 appearances in total.
He caught the eye of Barrow and moved north to join the Raiders, for whom he played more than 20 times in the Championship year of 2014.
Next stop was Wrexham where, back on Welsh soil, he figured in all 30 Crusaders games last year, fronting up as starting prop 28 times.
+ Roughyeds have reduced normal admission prices for their fourth round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie against Cumbrian amateurs Kells at Bower Fold on Sunday week, March 20 (3pm).
Season tickets are not valid because it’s a shared gate, all pay on the day.
Seats: adults £14, concessions £12, under-16s £5; standing: adults £12; concessions £10; under-16s, £3.