Cornwall RLFC have announced that Mike Abbott has been appointed the club’s new head coach for the 2023 Betfred League 1 season.
The 44-year-old, who moved from St Helens to Cornwall six years ago, served as previous Memorial Ground chief Neil Kelly’s assistant and he will now lead the Choughs into a second professional campaign.
Having gained coaching experience with Cornwall RLFC’s developmental arm, the Cornish Rebels, the club feels that Abbott’s knowledge of the local rugby scene makes him the ideal candidate to replace outgoing coach Neil Kelly.
Speaking about his new role, Abbott said:
“I’m over the moon with the chance to coach the team in 2023. I feel that we are really building something special here in Cornwall and although at times last year it was a tricky environment to be involved in because of the results, the boys kept turning up week after week, pulling on the jersey and looking to improve.
“Over time, we know that the results will improve and when we have a successful team, can you imagine what it will be like then? Especially with more Cornish boys in Cornish shirts as we develop more and more players here in Cornwall.”
Abbott praised the job his predecessor had done at the Memorial Ground and revealed that the former Super League Coach of the Year has offered his advice and support for the new Cornwall chief.
“Neil was absolutely class last year and really good for me,” Abbott added. “I went along to the player trial back in January and it would have been easy for Neil not to use me as we had some big characters in our dressing room last year.
“But he did and I thoroughly enjoyed working under Neil and had some good feedback from the players. Neil is a good honest bloke and we have spoken in the last couple of days. He has said that he is on the end of the phone if I need him at all next season and that is a measure of the man.”
Although this is Abbott’s first head coach role, the new man at Cornwall’s helm explained why he feels he is the right man for the Choughs’ top job.
“The best rugby league players in the world don’t always make the best coaches and that goes for a lot of sports,” he remarked. “Man-management is a huge factor in how successful a team is because stripped back, rugby league is all about territory and possession.
“With the right players, in the right environment that part of the game can be quite straightforward, but the finer details are often defined by how the coach approaches certain aspects of life in League 1.
“The way the players are managed is going to a massive part of my coaching remit but whatever happens, I will carry our group of players forward with respect and honesty.”
Meanwhile, Cornwall RLFC general manager John Beach, added: “Firstly, I must pay tribute to the job Neil Kelly did in our first year. It was a huge learning curve for us all in 2022 but the club won many friends within rugby league circles for its actions off the pitch and on it too.
“Neil was a huge part of that and he was the coach who led us to our first ever win in what was a history-making day for the club in defeating West Wales Raiders.
“He leaves with the club’s best wishes but we are looking forward to beginning a new chapter for Cornwall RLFC with Mike Abbott in charge.
“Mike is popular with the players and his ideas and values align with that of the club’s. We are all excited for Mike as he continues to shape the squad for our 2023 Betfred League 1 campaign.”
Feature image: Patrick Tod / Cornwall RLFC