Cornwall insist their approach will not see them join the list of rugby league expansion flops

NEIL Kelly is adamant rugby league is not setting off on its latest road to failure – with Cornish pride and roots propelling them in an alien sport.

Today sees Cornwall embark on the latest attempt to expand the game – one that has seen to flight flops in Wrexham, Toronto and Paris.

Throw in the likes of Nottingham, Mansfield, Cardiff and Oxford and – plus the location in a union stronghold that means journeys of up to eight hours for a game – and it is easy to see why there are doubts.

But Kelly, who leads his side into League One action at North Wales Crusaders, believes the organic approach, built on local players and not northerners travelling in, can see them succeed.

He said: “What convinces me we won’t be like previous failures? We don’t train at Featherstone Sports Centre.

“We’re not a group of northerners that trains in the north and travel to the venue for games. The majority of our squad is Cornish and we’re looking to develop more as we develop our presence.

“We’re 350 miles from where we normally ply our trade but the bulk of our squad is from the area and we’re developing players and most have skills that won’t look out of place on a rugby league field.

“I’ve been based here since the middle of January and it’s been a mixed response. Some people are unaware, some have heard about it but don’t know about the game and there are rugby enthusiasts that are well aware of the launch.

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“There is interest and we’re hoping to capitalise on it. I’ve met ex-pats from Bolton, St Helens, Wakefield, Warrington and I’d imagine they’re over the moon their game is coming to Cornwall.

“It’s a true development club. We’re not going to approach it like Toronto. We’re building local players.

"Anyone who understands development knows you start at a certain level, then over a period of time – hopefully years – you get to another.”

Cornwall came into being after the latest attempt by Eric Perez, who bought Hemel Hempstead’s franchise, to set up a transatlantic side in the Canadian capital Ottawa was a victim of the Covid -19 pandemic.

Now they will play out of Penryn, some 383 miles from where their debut takes place in Colwyn Bay.

Anthony Mullally, a Grand Final winner with Leeds, is the biggest name signing after he moved to Cornwall to lap up the surfing culture.

And among the local talent is Kyle Johns, who experienced rugby league as a student in south Wales and impressed at a trial.

Cornwall born and bred, the centre – who fits travel and overnight hotel stays, which Kelly highlighted in his ‘recruitment spiel,’ around his job as a resort’s health club manager – sees no reason why the 13-a-side code cannot build from nothing.

He said: “Playing for Cornwall as a lad from Cornwall – wearing the colours and the badge – is a massive honour.

“Cornwall’s dominated by union and surfing but Cornish people are very proud of their county and in the summer, we’ll see a massive influx of interest.

“People are talking about rugby league and in Cornwall, word gets around really quickly.

“Players will be taking time off work and sacrificing time on their day jobs to be sat on a coach for six or seven hours going to away games – but we’ve always had 100 per cent attendance at training.

“You can tell it’s going to be a positive thing and going into the unknown means we can’t have any pre-conceptions, we can just be us.”

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