Cornish Rebels have announced that New Zealand-based businessman Colin Groves is now on board as a Director and is working closely with the club as they move towards submitting a formal application to join League One in the coming seasons.
Chairman of Waikato Rugby NZ and Club Director at both Cornish Pirates Rugby Union and Truro City Football Club, Groves has a vast amount of experience in both professional and semi professional sport as well as in global business and economics. Following the announcement Groves heaped praise on fellow Rebels Directors and founders John Beach and Rob Butland and now wants to see Rugby League progress in the most South Westerly County in the UK.
“What John and Rob have achieved with the Rebels so far is incredible and we now have the foundation in place for the sport to really take off; It is a natural and logical fit with Cornwall as a summer sport. We are moving forward with a vision of three major sports in the County; Rugby Union, Soccer and finally we see Rugby League as the third piece of that puzzle.“
John Beach meanwhile tells of how the two parties came together naturally through the Rebels philosophy that Cornwall can and should thrive as a dual-code County. He confirmed that lines of communication had been open with the Pirates for some time, but since Groves came on board things have ramped up considerably.
“We’ve known various people at the Pirates for a while, but when Colin came on board with them we soon got talking about Rugby League and the potential we all see for the sport in Cornwall. After more than 18 months of incredibly healthy discussions and meetings we are delighted that Colin has agreed to formally come on board as a club Director. We are now working full steam ahead to bring League One Rugby to Cornwall in the not too distant future.”
A relatively new club on the UK Rugby League scene, the Rebels broke ground in 2013 by becoming the first ever Rugby League club in Cornwall and 7 successful years later have proven that there is a healthy thirst for the game in what is arguably the most ‘non-traditional area’ of them all. The club has now become the major force in South West Rugby League and Groves’ involvement is surely testament to that. Although 12 months ago the club withdrew from the South West League part way through the season, that doesn’t seem to have derailed the club or indeed detracted them from their goals, as Director Rob Butland explains.
“We said at the time that pulling out of the SWRL was partly a business decision, but also partly a growth decision. The reasons we gave at the time are still reasons today and making that incredibly difficult decision last summer has allowed us to focus on some key relationships away from the field of play which now gives us a firm footing to take the next steps as a club
“We have continued to put in the hard yards on our development infrastructure that will provide the relevant resources for the game to thrive here in Cornwall. Where Colin’s experience has helped propel us along from a business perspective. This is a key area for us as the Rebels first and foremost has to be a self-sustaining club. We have acknowledged and embraced that the Rugby League landscape is changing and romance isn’t enough nowadays. You have to be relevant, successful and robust in our practises. Between the three of us we are confident we can steer the ship on those core principles and values.
As the most successful South West Rugby League club of all time, and the one with the largest following, the Rebels have delivered unparalleled development in primary and secondary schools. It stands to reason then, that the club has attracted solid interest from partners such as the Truro-boy Groves who, since living and working in New Zealand, has unearthed a passion for Rugby League.
A former England Colt, he grew up in the county’s only city and ten years ago made the decision to move his family to the other side of the world, naturally taking his incredibly diverse business portfolio with him. He has continued to add to it whilst maintaining strong interest and involvement in his number one passion of sport.
Groves’ other Cornish Rugby Club, the union team Cornish Pirates were, until the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, hot on the heels of Unions top division and intend to start work on the brand new stadium Sportva Kernow in the next 12 months. The 10,000 capacity ground will also be home to fellow tenants and sister organisation Truro City FC. An agreement in principle has been muted for the Rebels to play their games at the facility, subject to the club gaining semi professional status. That means travelling League One supporters will not only have a new destination away-day in their calendars, but they will have a brand new stadium to watch their team in, just a few miles from the coast in the thriving city of Truro.
In another boost for the club, England RL head coach Shaun Wane recently hinted that Cornwall was on the national talent radar. At an RFL hosted webinar, the boss said that all coaches had to do was keep the players enjoying the game. The pathway would do the rest. He said
“If there is a player in Cornwall who is good enough to play Super League then they will come through, make no mistake. The focus there, without a shadow of a doubt, will be on enjoyment.”
There is certainly much to be excited about in Cornwall. Butland, who doubles as Club Development Manager, has said that they aren’t just another expansionists pipe dream. “I truly believe that Cornwall, and the journey we will go on, will have a huge hand in securing a future for Rugby League as a sport. The sport has to have a national footprint and we can offer an area which is rich in talent and passion. It’s not just about what Rugby League can bring to Cornwall. It’s as much about what Cornwall can bring to Rugby League.