A statue celebrating three Welsh legendary ‘rugby codebreakers’ has been unveiled in Cardiff Bay.
The statue, designed by sculptor Steve Winterburn, immortalises three of Wales’ rugby greats, chosen by a public vote: Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan and Gus Risman.
The ‘One Team, One Race: Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers’ project behind the statue was established in 2020, and was inspired by calls from the Butetown, and wider Cardiff Bay community, for a fitting tribute to the players who did so much to improve race relations across Britain.
Sir Stanley Thomas OBE, chairman of the project, who kick-started fundraising for the statue with a significant personal donation, said: “I am delighted after just 2 years of campaigning and raising funds, we as a committee have reached our fundraising target and we are all here today with Billy, the families of all players, donors and local community unveiling this magnificent piece of art by Steve Winterburn that recognises these wonderful sporting legends in their home city of Cardiff.
“I would like to personally extend my thanks to Welsh Government, Cardiff Council, The Heritage and Cultural Exchange, the Peterson Family, Rugby Football League Facilities Trust, Cardiff and Vale College and The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers for their kind donations and the support of Capital Law, Verde Finance, Azets and Rio for their professional skills and time supporting the delivery of this project.”
Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “To have a statue of these incredible players at the heart of Cardiff Bay, in touching distance of the proud multi-cultural communities where they grew up, will serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come.
“Their achievements have been overlooked for too long, and I’m delighted that today, they are finally being honoured and celebrated in the city of their birth. I’m grateful to all who’ve helped make it happen”
Chair of the Heritage and Cultural Exchange, Gaynor Legall, said: “I grew up in the same community as these players.
“They were heroes to us then for their achievements and they still are.
“It’s wonderful to be here today with members of the local community to see the unveiling of this fantastic statue and have their great deeds recorded for future generations, so they can be a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.”
Billy Boston: A legend in Wales and Wales
Boston was born on 1934 in Cardiff to an Irish mother and a father from Sierra Leone. He grew up playing rugby union before joining Wigan RL as a teenager for £3,000.
The winger went on to score 478 tries in 487 appearances for the Cherry and Whites, spending 15 seasons with the club.
Internationally, he won the World Cup with Great Britain and won 31 caps for the Lions, becoming their first black tourist in Australia.
Boston is in the Rugby League and Wigan Halls of Fame and was made MBE for his services to the sport He also has a statue dedicated to him in Wigan and and features on the rugby league statue at Wembley.
Rugby Codebreakers | Torwr Cod Rygbi🏴
More comments and photos soon, but here's the moment where Sir Stanley Thomas, Billy Boston and relatives of the Risman and Sullivan family unveiled the statue of Billy, Clive Sullivan and Gus Risman.
A fantastic event here in Cardiff Bay. pic.twitter.com/1ZzibehHTF
— Wales Rugby League (@WalesRugbyL) July 19, 2023
Clive Sullivan: An icon in the city of Hull
Sullivan became the first black captain of any Great Britain side and led his country to the 1972 World Cup title.
He joined the Army from school and had rugby league trials in his late teens. He eventually joined Hull and went on to play 352 games for the Black and Whites.
Sullivan later made the switch across the city to Hull KR, scoring 118 tries in 213 games for the Robins, winning the Challenge Cup with both clubs.
He won 17 caps for his country and also captained the Welsh at the 1975 World Cup.
In 194, he was honoured with an MBE and he is on the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame ‘Roll of Honour’. The main road into Hull was named ‘Clive Sullivan Way’ in his honour.
Gus Risman: Salford and Workington favourite
Risman was born in Cardiff to Russian immigrants who settled in Tiger Bay. His parents ran a boarding house and then moved to Barry to run a cafe when Gus was 11.
He went on to become one of Wales’ greatest ever rugby players, captaining the 15-aside team in War Time internationals despite being a rugby league legend.
Risman is a member of the Rugby League and Workington Halls of Fame as well as being on the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame ‘Roll of Honour’.
He already has a street named after him in Salford and Workington and is on the rugby league statue at Wembley.
Between 1929-54, he scored more than 4,000 points in 873 games for Salford and Workington. He also played in 36 test matches for Great Britain and winning 18 caps for Wales.