Cornwall surely face an uphill struggle

Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler


For many years I used to travel regularly to Cornwall every year when my parents-in-law lived near Truro and I grew to love the county, with its wonderful beaches, cliff walks, historic monuments, temperate climate and Cornish pasties.

So I would like nothing more than to see Rugby League succeed in that part of England.

But if it is going to be successful, the new Cornwall club is facing a daunting challenge.

Having said that, however, there are two very positive things in its favour.

First, I think it’s a great idea for the name of the club to be taken from the county as a whole. It gives ownership of the club potentially to everyone who lives in Cornwall if the new club can fire the imagination of some of the people who live there.

Second, it’s a great move to see the iconic Cornish Chough as part of its logo. That bird, a member of the Covid family, with its striking red beak, is an iconic bird in the southwest and it’s a symbol that many Cornish people identify strongly with.

But on the other side of the coin, the club faces a hell of a job recruiting a squad for a kick-off in March next year. My advice to them would have been to delay their entry to League 1 until 2023.

As you will see from the interview with Rob Butland on page 21 of this issue, he is unable at this stage to give us any significant information on how the club will overcome that problem.

As I understand it, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owned the Ottawa Aces when they were being proposed as a Canadian Rugby League team, still holds an interest in the Cornwall club. If so, they may be prepared to fund its first season, while the Cornish Pirates rugby union club is also thought to have a financial stake in the club.

The Aces signed a number of players to contracts when they thought they would be playing out of Canada and, to their credit, I understand that they have paid off all those contracts to the tune of around £500,000.

So the signs are not all bad for the new club if it can sign half-a-dozen players with experience and lure them down to Cornwall.

On that theme, it’s worth quoting one poster from the forum who actually lives in Cornwall.

“Just to address the broad matter of ‘playing squad’ which has been mentioned in several posts,” he wrote.

“With regards to attracting established players, the lifestyle opportunities available in Cornwall will undoubtedly appeal to a great many. Not all, of course, but I am sure plenty would be drawn toward the sea and surf nature of the far South West. And, as a dad myself, I can attest to it being a great place for young families.

“However, as has been stated, the intention is to draw upon local talent as much as possible.

“I have seen some allude to it being a possible option for those not quite able/good enough to get on a player pathway for the Exeter Chiefs or Cornish Pirates RU. But this is a very glass-half-empty and defeatist stance. Rather, Cornwall RLFC will be there for those who are naturally suited to League and would only wither on the vine otherwise.

“Over recent years I have watched my son play junior Rugby all over the county – from Launceston to St Ives, Newquay to Fowey. One thing that has struck me is how many youngsters would flourish in League more than Union, and the club will undoubtedly offer them a meaningful outlet in due course. So very many would, if playing junior Rugby League in Hunslet, Hull, Wigan or Warrington, already be on the radar of professional clubs.

“With this pathway now available, don’t be at all surprised if within a decade there are several Cornish-born players at the highest level of the sport.”
That is an enticing prospect.

The only Cornish Rugby League player that I can immediately recall at a high level was Graham Paul, who played for Hull Kingston Rovers in the 1950s and 60s.

Born in 1934, Paul was an outstanding schoolboy athlete, who represented both Cornwall and the RAF before Rovers persuaded him to try his luck in Rugby League in November 1958, at the age of 24. He made his debut for Rovers at stand-off half on Boxing Day 1958, and for his first three seasons he alternated between wing and off-half, before settling on the wing in his last two seasons.

To Rovers fans he was known as the ‘Cornish Express’. He was the club’s top try-scorer in three seasons and an ever-present in two. In 1962/63, he set a new post-war club record of 34 tries for the season, becoming the first Rovers’ player to score tries in ten consecutive club matches.

If there are more Cornish players like him that can be enticed into Rugby League, I’m sure we would all be absolutely delighted.

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