Stop creating teams and hoping for the best: Expansion needs more thought

Andrew Henderson on expansion
Andrew Henderson is director of rugby at League 1 club Keighley Cougars

Expansion sides like Cornwall need a greater depth of thought rather than just dumping a team in area and hoping for the best.

That’s the view of leading coach and rugby league pundit Andrew Henderson. He is a director of rugby at League 1 promotion-chasers Keighley Cougars who handed Cornwall a 10th straight defeat of their inaugural season last Sunday.

At Keighley, Henderson is charged with establishing youth systems and player pathways to develop the first-team squad, while overseeing recruitment into it.

“I love expansion and how we want to expand the game and take it to new areas,” said Henderson, a Scotland international of Australian descent who was born and raised in Devon.

“My only criticism I have with some of these expansion teams is that we dump a team in an area, put a bit of money into it, we hope it grows then if it doesn’t quite do what it needs to do it falls through and goes kaput. 

“What needs to happen is there needs to be a strong amateur competition already in that area. That is my challenge for Cornwall. 

“Cornwall and Devon should really have six to eight teams playing in a regular competition so there is a bit of a player pool already there. Then there would be a small fanbase already there; and rugby league people on the ground who can volunteer as they know the game. Rather than just putting a team somewhere and expecting people to buy into it.

“You need to grow it more organically by getting the grassroots running first then look to put the semi-pro club in.”


Catalans Dragons a perfect example of expansion done right

Henderson was speaking on this week’s Love Rugby League Podcast. He cites Catalans Dragons as the model that every expansion side should be looking at.

He continued: “I think that is where we miss the trick with some of these teams. Why does Catalans work? Because there is semi-professional rugby league already played in the area. There is amateur rugby league, kids playing, a constant flow of players, staff who know the game; and a fanbase on the back of that. 

“That is the challenge for Cornwall.”

PODCAST: Andrew Henderson on Combined Nations All Stars & international rugby league

LINKTREE: Love Rugby League website, podcast, app & Fantasy RL


  1. He makes a good point.
    Although his six to eight teams are already in existence – Tarka Storm, Saltash Essayons, Teignbridge Trojans, Exeter Ravens, Devon Sharks, Cornish Rebels. More though would, of course, be good.

    The challenge for Cornwall is actually a slightly different one from other expansion areas, how to convert some of the large Union playing base into League players. Over time the barriers between League and Union are falling (in the mind and in gameplay), so if done well it could reap great rewards.

  2. Cornwall was a ridiculous idea. Their Amateur scene is small with Cornish Rebels unable to fulfil fixtures and therefore pulling out mid-season. Now they don’t exist. Saltash are on the Devon border and there are four clubs in Devon. One of whom have ran consistently since 2007. It would have made more sense to run a semi-pro club there where the game is established.

    How long before Cornwall go the way of so many before? The RFL do this time and again and you think they’d learn. But experience tells me it won’t be the last time.

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