THATTO Heath Crusaders have enjoyed a remarkable year of success — and seeing their team being crowned National Conference Premier Division winners was the icing on the cake.

With the North West Men’s League team winning and the under 18s winning their Grand Final and the Women’s team collecting the Challenge Cup and supplying eight players to the World Cup it has been a tumultuous season for the Close Street outfit.

Chairman Mike Denning, who oversees the ‘one club’ operation with his hard working committee is understandably delighted to see the hard work of many come to fruition - but not ready to rest on any laurels.

Denning said: “The final victory was a culmination of years of work that people have put in.

“It is not just about Richard Owen, who has come in from Wigan and shaped the team and the club the way he has wanted to at open age level.

“But it is also the work that Paul Hatton has done previously.

“He had a team that had won a Grand Final – but that was one that was ageing and with people retiring, we got relegated.”

Denning was delighted to have so many people involved, with players from under four going through to masters and a club house that is providing an amenity to the community seven days a week.

And he wants the youngsters to aspire to play for Thatto Heath when they are older.

He said: “What is satisfying for me is like any business – if you strive to be the best in the ultimate competitions then that will hopefully be your selling point.

“We have such a committed bunch of volunteers. Open is is just 2/17ths of the club.

“There are so many teams and we are only as good as what is underpinning us.

“To see some of the kids there at the final watching the adult was pleasing.

“Not everybody is going to play for Saints, Widnes, Warrington or Wigan – but they have got to have somewhere to aspire to be.

“The biggest pleasure I have got out is seeing all the hard work that everyone has put in pay off.

“It’s not me as chairman, Richard as coach or the 17 lads who won - it is a result of an effort by every single person at the club.

“I am not sure if its euphoria or relief.”

With Thatto Heath being such a fiercely proud local community - and one that has produced such an array of talent over the years — Denning was delighted with the make-up of the predominantly local 17 that won the Grand Final.

“It is pleasing. Although Dan Birkett came from Wigan with Richard Owen, the rest are local.

“If you look at lads like Sean Kenny, who had a great game – when I first started off as chairman he was in the under 7s and his dad was coach.

“Sean played in the million pound game with Salford last year,” he said.

Denning stressed that the club have been good at getting players to come back who been to pro club academies and then not taken on any further.

He said: “Rugby league is losing too many kids at 16.

“As a club, we have done really well – Paul Hatton did it especially well - at speaking to broken players.

“These are academy lads who have worked hard for three years but you can’t get six fingers into a glove.

“It is a fact of life that all players can’t get into a senior squad.

“Where do they go then?

“If you get our 17 and write them down there are very few who haven’t been to academies, they are not bad players.”

They will have to produce the goods again next year when they will be up there - as champions - to be shot at in a very strong league.

“I have spoken to Richard already – I said enjoy this week but we need to sort out what’s happening about pre-season because it soon on us.

“We won the Grand Final in 2011 and then we got relegated. There are no easy games in this division,” Denning said.

And off the field they continue to thrive and add an asset to the community.

“Some people measure success on the trophy cabinet but I look at members list and how many we have playing rugby and how many volunteers we have,” he said.

“We have an award ceremony coming up soon where we will be given Queens award for voluntary services. That tells you that we are doing something right here."