Pre-season ahead of the 2019 campaign has been as tough as any other Kenny Hughes has been through in his career to date.
After spending the best part of a decade at Oldham, Hughes linked up with Crusaders in the off-season.
With bags of experience both in League 1 and at a higher level, the 28-year-old has given North Wales Anthony Murray boss plenty of options at hooker.
“We’ve had a good flogging this pre-season and it’s been as tough as any other I can remember in my career,” Hughes said.
“I think fitness probably was a bit of an issue last year for the club and why they struggled to compete later on in games.
“We’ve worked a lot of on our fitness and you can definitely see it paying off.
“If your forwards are playing longer minutes, it’ll help the rest of the team.
“When you’re on the front foot, it means you won’t have as much defending to do and we need to make sure we do that so we still have the legs towards the end of games.
“I reckon we’ll go pretty well this year and should be challenging those teams at the top of the table.”
Although joining Crusaders is the first time Hughes has had a change of scenery for a while, he has settled in well at the club.
“Training is going well and we’ve played those two friendlies,” he said.
“I thought we did alright against Widnes as they were at full strength. The only things we didn’t deal with very well were the kicks to the corners in the first-half.
“We need to go into the Coventry game, put it a good performance and make sure we’re ready for the new season.
“I want to make sure I’m in the team every week, get some wins under my belt and enjoy my rugby again.
“I was at Oldham for around eight years and, to be honest, things had started to get a little bit stale for me personally.
“I needed a new challenge at a new club with new faces.”
Crusaders round-up their pre-season schedule against Coventry Bears at Queensway Stadium at 1.30pm on Saturday, February 9.