Cornwall RLFC forward Jack Ray has agreed a new contract for the 2023 Betfred League One season, writes Gareth Davies.
The powerhouse prop was a shining light from the club’s first professional campaign despite missing seven rounds of competition due to a broken hand.
Ray’s return to full fitness coincided with an upturn in performances from Cornwall with the side picking up a first ever win over the now defunct West Wales Raiders in June.
The 24-year-old bagged his first try for the club in July’s home reverse at the hands of eventual beaten play-off finalists Doncaster.
He also crossed the whitewash in the final weeks of the season in matches at Rochdale and Midlands.
Despite the club enduring something of a baptism of fire in rugby league’s third tier, Ray revealed that the challenge of playing for a new entity, one outside of the sport’s heartland areas, was one the former Oulton Raiders’ junior relished.
“I enjoyed last year because playing for a club like this is different to what you normally get in rugby league,” he told cornwallrlfc.co.uk after inking terms for 2023.
“I knew the season would be difficult because of the outside factors that aren't rugby related like the travel to away matches. But it was enjoyable doing the away trips because I was surrounded by mates and how can that not be a good thing?
“We developed a really strong bond because even in the early games we never rolled over to anyone and we fulfilled every fixture by putting 17 men out on the field. I think some of the more established teams thought we would be easy pickings but we know we are better than that.
“As the season went on, the opinion of others towards us made the boys more determined to succeed and I think we gave some of the sides in this league a real fright at times. That shows that we are not here to make up the numbers and it also gives us extra motivation to succeed and move the club forward.”
A product of the academy set-up at Super League side Castleford Tigers, Ray relocated to Cornwall after the COVID-19 pandemic to start a career in the forces.
And when Cornwall RLFC were born in November 2021, the club moved quickly to secure Ray’s services.
A string of stellar performances as the club’s debut year progressed even saw Ray promoted to the role of team captain, something he describes as a humbling experience.
He added: “It was an honour to be asked to captain the side and after being handed such an opportunity I didn’t want to let it slip.
“Alongside that, I was asked to play big minutes and when a coach asks you to do that as a middle it is a good thing, a challenge really. I love putting myself up against other props and it is a case of who breaks first. If my opponent goes off before me then I’ve won, if it’s me then he’s won.
“But it isn’t just about me and I was proud to lead the boys as we really started to dig in and deliver good performances as last year went on. We know we still fell short at certain stages in certain games but that is behind us now as we look towards the future and 2023.”
Cornwall RLFC general manager John Beach added: “We are delighted to have Jack on board with us for another season. He gave us strength and go forward through the middle and some of the minutes he spent on the field last year was incredible.
“Jack was one of our real success stories last year and he was another player that due to circumstances, would have possibly been lost to club rugby league if it wasn’t for Cornwall RLFC.”