Aces high for Frayssinous

While great uncertainty continues to surround most clubs in the Championship and League One, Ottawa Aces laid their coaching cards on the table on Thursday with the impressive appointment of Laurent Frayssinous.

It was not an unexpected announcement, but that should not detract from how exciting it should be for the ambitious Canadian club.

Frayssinous coached for four and a half years in Super League at Catalans Dragons, earning plenty of admirers within the sport, despite a disappointing end to his tenure in Perpignan.

He is also among the most likeable and approachable coaches of recent times, which shouldn’t be underestimated at a recently formed club looking to attract a new audience to Rugby League.

And his ability to speak both French and English in the largely bilingual Ottawa is a further plus point to his appointment.

Frayssinous also has a relaxed, cool air about him that shone through in Thursday’s Zoom press conference, when he was formally introduced to media on both sides of the world.

Asked what drew him to the club, he replied: “Building a club, starting from zero and trying to make sure our club can be a Super League team at some stage is what was appealing to me.

“I share a lot of beliefs with Eric Perez about how we build a club and a team.

“The challenge to get into Super League is exciting and that’s why I wanted to come to Ottawa.

“I started to watch all the League One and Championship games before Covid arrived.

“I’ve got a lot of players in mind and will start straight after the press conference to talk to players and managers about Ottawa.

“We want the right players on the field, but also off the field, because I want to build a team spirit in the first season.”

That recruitment process is now underway, with the Aces looking to build a full-time squad capable of following in Toronto’s footsteps by winning promotion from League One at the first attempt.

I understand that an initial shortlist of around 50 targets has been drawn up, and the uncertainty mentioned at the top of this piece could actually aid a fledgling overseas club when others could be cutting back or struggling at home.

“To be honest it will be easy – the project is so appealing for every player,” Frayssinous said when asked about the difficulty of building a squad from scratch.

“In League One there are a lot of players who are part-time, and we will be full-time.

“Rugby League players I know are keen to travel and discover new countries.

“The hardest decision I will have to make is to make the right choices, because I know we will have plenty of candidates.

“We will take time to make sure our roster is good, because these are the first steps to build a club.”

Trials for Canadian players will form part of that recruitment drive, and Frayssinous expects to use his extensive contacts in the French game to help build his squad.

He will do so with the support of Chairman Perez, a key figure in the launch of the Wolfpack who was as passionate as ever at Frayssinous’ announcement, insisting that the coronavirus pandemic has had a negligible impact on the Aces’ 2021 plans.

Perez said: “There’s a lot of uncertainty around what the schedule will be like next year.

“Will the Championship and League One start again this year, how long will that run for and how will it affect next season?

“That aside, we’ve been full steam ahead with our plans.

“We weren’t playing this year anyway, so it’s not affected us too much and we’re doing everything we were planning on doing.

“We’ve hired the coach now and will start recruiting players soon to build a winning team for Ottawa.”

How the infectious enthusiasm of Perez and calm demeanour of Frayssinous translate to the reality of a League One campaign remains to be seen.

But this was a welcome ray of positivity in difficult times.