Cornwall hope new coach’s local knowledge will make him ideal Neil Kelly successor

CORNWALL chiefs says Mike Abbott’s local knowledge makes him the ideal coach to replace Neil Kelly and help Rugby League’s newest professional club to progress.

Former Dewsbury, Widnes, Leigh and Wales coach Kelly, 56, stepped down after taking charge for Cornwall’s inaugural season, in which they finished second-bottom of League One.

Their sole victory was away to basement side West Wales Raiders, who had won in the Duchy six weeks earlier.

Kelly decided against staying at the Penryn-based club for a second year so as not to be away from his family, and the club said in a statement: “This decision was 100 percent amicable.

“Neil was handed the task of leading Cornwall into our first professional season and he built a side and a squad from scratch in a very short period of time which evolved as the year progressed.

“He provided the club with stability during its infancy and laid firm foundations which we know will be built upon in years to come.”

While Abbott, who was Kelly’s assistant, is from St Helens, he relocated to Cornwall in 2016.

He has been involved with amateur club Cornish Rebels and the local rugby union scene.

“Given the club’s mantra of putting Cornwall first, his knowledge of the rugby scene as a whole in Cornwall meant he was the ideal candidate to replace Neil,” added the statement.

Abbott said: “I feel that we are really building something special and although at times last year it was a tricky environment to be involved in because of the results, the boys kept turning up, pulling on the jersey and looking to improve.

“The chat amongst them was always good and I think the fans helped that no end.

“They are a passionate bunch and at times it seemed like they just wanted to support the team and the results weren’t the be all and end all.

“Over time, we know that the results will improve and when we have a successful team.

“Can you imagine what it will be like, especially with more Cornish boys in Cornwall shirts as we develop more and more players here.”

Abbott says he learned a lot working with Kelly.

“Neil was really good for me,” he explained. “I thoroughly enjoyed working under him and had some good feedback from the players.

“He is a good, honest bloke and we have spoken since my appointment. He said he is on the end of the phone if I need him at all, and that is a measure of the man.”

Abbott is confident he can develop the team.

“Man-management is a huge factor in how successful a team is,” he continued.

“It is going to a massive part of my coaching remit but whatever happens, I will carry our group of players forward with respect and honesty.”