Nerves and Excitement for Kelly as Cornwall Await League 1 Bow
April 2, 2022
Head coach Neil Kelly admitted that both he and his Cornwall RLFC side are feeling ‘nervous and excited’ ahead of today’s historic clash with North Wales Crusaders.
The Choughs were admitted to rugby league’s professional ranks in November 2021 and have spent the last six months building a squad and club for the Betfred League 1 season.
Kelly has assembled a team sprinkled with a mix of rugby league experience and those wanting to try their hand at the 13-man code for the first time.
And after Cornwall were left kicking their heels for the opening round of League 1 due to an uneven number of teams in the competition, the season finally begins today (Saturday) with both league points and the Celtic Shield up for grabs.
“We started this journey as a team eight weeks ago and we have been recruiting throughout that period,” Kelly told cornwallrlfc.co.uk. “This game has come round quickly and the last couple of weeks have just flown by and all of sudden, it’s here and right in front of us.
“I am a little bit nervous for the players and they are all nervous but it is a nice kind of nerves meaning they are raring to go. I am also excited and I am also excited for myself, to see the product on the field.”
With North Wales enjoying a prudent start to the campaign with a victory over Rochdale last time out and a decent Challenge Cup run, could it be the Crusaders who are under pressure to perform at the Eirias Stadium? Kelly, in bullish fashion, urged his side to look for a different kind of pressure, however.
“The pressure that you are better putting on your team is the pressure you put yourselves under to perform and deliver the end product,” the former Super League Coach of the Year, added. “North Wales are a serious rugby league team and they have had a brilliant start to the season in the Challenge Cup and then they had a great win at Rochdale last week which is a difficult place to go.
“(The game) will be a challenge for us but we are ploughing our own furrow this year and we are on our own development programme. Regardless of the result in North Wales, it is more about the performance and analysing the areas that we want to keep, don’t want to keep and the need to improve.
“That is going to be the case for most of our games this season and I am not necessarily a results driven coach more a performance coach. I know that if you get performances right, the results follow.”
With a shortened pre-season due to the club’s previously mentioned formation last year, Kelly revealed that despite not seeing his players ‘at the coal face’ the 60-year-old has every confidence in his squad going forward.
“There is a large amount of unknown about (the season) because we are all finding out about each other,” he remarked. “The players are finding out about me as a coach and I want to find out about them. We haven’t had a pre-season game so in many ways , this will be the first time we will be seen at the coal face so to speak.
“There will be nerves and excitement as I mentioned earlier but I have every confidence that they are the right group of players from what I’ve seen in pre-season. So I am hoping that they transfer the things that are unique to rugby league from the training field to the playing field.”
Finally, with Jamie Prisk being named as captain for Cornwall RLFC in 2022 earlier today, Kelly revealed that the former Redruth and St Ives rugby union star is the perfect man to lead the Choughs in 2022.
“We have some outstanding candidates and players throughout our side,” Kelly said. “ Most notably Anthony Mullally who has been there and done that, won Grand Finals and played for several top clubs in Super League.
“He would probably be everyone’s ideal choice as captain but it hasn’t been easy choosing the captain.
“I’m very mindful that I wanted to choose a Cornishman, but a Cornishman with experience, skill and knowledge. Jamie Prisk ticks all those boxes and I am sure he will do really, really well this year.”