Rugby: Big year ahead for Cornish Pirates after triple whammy
THE new year may only be a few days old, but it hasn't been the best of start for the Cornish Pirates.
It is often said that bad things happen in threes and in keeping with that adage the club has lost a coach, lost a marquee and lost a league game all in the space of a few short days.
The alleged arson attack on the hospitality marquee at the Mennaye Field defies belief, but with a suspect arrested by the police and the matter subject to a criminal investigation it would be wholly inappropriate for me to say any more.
Losing in Yorkshire to the high-flying Titans was not entirely unexpected by the Pirates fans who made the trip to the wonderfully bleak Clifton Lane ground, and the stunned silence from the home faithful as the Pirates led 24-3 after half an hour was something to savour.
They are a boisterous lot in that part of Yorkshire. Mad for their sport and passionate about their club and when their blood is up you don't need to be told. The fans were stirring as the second half began and the Rotherham fight back gathered momentum, and once their team was in front they let rip.
In the past I have watched matches from the tight confines of the covered stand and I know what goes on in there. It can be pretty brutal at times and maybe one or two Pirates players came home ruing the day they let them wake up and hit their straps.
The departure of assistant coach Harvey Biljon to Jersey last week will be a blow to the club no matter how much you dress it up.
People come and people go in life as in sport and Biljon did a good job at the Mennaye despite, in seasons past, often barely having enough fit backs with whom to conduct a meaningful training session.
The head coach job at Championship strugglers Jersey is a good move for him and his young family, and I'm sure he will soon galvanise their squad of talented players who have largely failed to live up to their reputations so far this season. He deserves his chance and I certainly wish him well.
The problem with Biljon's departure is that it is once again an example of talent from within the Pirates ranks which has been nurtured and developed being allowed to leave. You cannot stop this happening but it is starting to sit less and less comfortably with supporters frustrated by the club's current status.
Many good players have left Cornwall and the Pirates in recent seasons and as we approach the time of year when contracts are up for grabs and agents begin to prowl with even greater menace, that list could well be added to before this season is done.
With little apparently happening on the Stadium front at present, the share issue designed to help fund the Pirates moving ahead from now seemingly lacking an absence of drive and publicity, and a CEO replaced by a general operations manager, questions are rightly being asked.
Rotherham, an aspirational club, like the Pirates in many ways, are determined to win the league this season and will accept promotion if they do. The fact they will almost certainly be relegated within a year of achieving this is already accepted, while the small concern of not having a Premiership style ground to play at is embraced as a challenge they can overcome.
2014 promises to be a big year for the Cornish Pirates on the field, with a good team still vying for league and cup success. Off the field, however, it threatens to be an even bigger year for a club rapidly reaching a crossroads of ambition.