Former Oldham prop, and Harlequins rugby union captain, Adrian Alexander is better placed than many in rugby league to make an early judgement on the new Cornwall RLFC.
Alexander, now 66, lived in Cornwall during his teens and returned to run a pub in 1992, ironically in Penryn where the new rugby league club will be based.
He said: “I know it’s a long way to go, but what a wonderful place and what fantastic potential for a rugby league club.
“All those years ago I was of the opinion that Cornwall was ready for rugby league. The locals are strong, hard men. Rugby Union down there has been strong for 200 years. Working and training is no problem; it comes naturally to them .
“Rugby, albeit Union, is part of their lives. The culture for tough, young men is all about fishing, tin mining and rugby, and not necessarily in that order.”
Alexander’s link to Penryn
Now a club ambassador for the Roughyeds, Londoner Alexander was a bright young rugby union hopeful who hit the headlines by going professional with Oldham.
He played for St Ives Colts and Cornwall Colts during his union days, also playing for Rosslyn Park, Middlesex and England Under 23s, before making his name in the 15-man code as Harlequins captain.
When he and wife Ginny, a recent ex-Mayor of Oldham, took over The Cross Keys pub in Penryn, the entire local rugby union squad walked in for handshakes and introductions.
Not long afterwards he was appointed second team coach (back then, as a former Oldham RL forward, he was frowned on by the RFU as a ‘professional’) and in one season he completely turned round the reserve team’s fortunes to produce 25 wins from 26 games.
Rugby is “ingrained”
Alexander added: “Rugby is ingrained in them. The Penryn second team lads gave me a trophy for helping them to have their most successful season ever and some of the boys were moved up to the first-team squad.
“The first-team coach, Benji Thomas, was also coach of the Cornwall county team that won the County Championship.
“The top lads down there usually go off to sign for Exeter or Bath, but there are so many good players in Cornwall that a lot of them will fancy a crack at a different kind of rugby on their doorstep.
“Back in the day, we’d train on a cliff top, with the rain lashing down and forked lightning snaking over the sea and the lads loved it. It was like a scene from a Frankenstein movie, but the lads were only interested in rugby training and that was typical of what rugby means to everyone in Cornwall.
“I have lots of friends in that area and they are rugby mad, believe me. They’ve got what it takes to be really good players in Rugby League and I think the whole county will be up for it.
“Oldhamers go to Cornwall in their droves and I would urge them to follow the Roughyeds down there, ideally making a few days of it. It’s a fabulous county, the hotels are good, there’s always lots things to do and rugby league is set to take off there, I’m sure.
“I thought the county was ready for rugby league to move in way back in 1992, and I’m more convinced than ever now that the RFL and Eric Perez have got it right.”
Alexander has urged Oldham fans to get behind the venture, and they will find out the date of their Cornwall trip when the fixtures are released on Sunday, November 14.