Honouring the Cardiff Bay Codebreakers

1 TEAM . . . . 1 RACE (translation note – race as in humanity)

Logo designed by Katie Jones

Three of the Wales’ greatest rugby league heroes are to be immortalised in a permanent artwork in Cardiff Bay.

This will be designed to ensure their stories – and the story of the proud and vibrant multi-cultural community which helped shape them – are never forgotten.

‘One Team – One Race, Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers’ is being launched on Sporting Heritage Day, 2020 (Wednesday, Sept 30). The project will raise money to create three statues chosen from 13 sports stars who made a telling contribution playing in Rugby League over the past 120 years.

The 13 Rugby Codebreakers, who all hail from the Cardiff Bay area and surrounding neighbourhoods are (click on the names for more info): Billy Boston, Dennis Brown, Gerald CordleJoe Corsi, Colin Dixon, Roy Francis, Johnny Freeman, Gus Risman, Clive Sullivan, Jim Sullivan, Frank Whitcombe, William ‘Wax’ Williams and Dave Willicombe.

Their stats show that they are 13 of the greatest rugby players Cardiff has ever produced…

3 World Cup winners
9 Great Britain internationals
12 Welsh internationals (with Billy Boston playing for Wales v France B)
3 Rugby League Hall of Famers
4 members of the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame Roll of Honour
7 players who won 17 Challenge Cup finals

To vote for your favourites, go to https://www.rugbycodebreakers.co.uk/

All 13 nominees grew up within a three-mile radius of Cardiff Bay. Many battled prejudice and racism before leaving Wales to find fame as Rugby League superstars in the North of England.

Coinciding with this year’s Sporting Heritage Day, giant images celebrating their incredible achievements will be projected onto the walls of Cardiff Castle. It will signal the launch of the fund-raising campaign and the start of a public vote, which will help choose three legends from the 13 who will form the centrepiece of the artwork.

It is hoped the artwork, which could use QR codes to tell the story of Cardiff Bay and the role its residents have played in positive race relations since the docks where built, could go on permanent display in Cardiff Bay within the next two years.

The project was inspired by calls from the Butetown and wider Cardiff Bay communities for a fitting tribute to the players who did so much to improve race relations across Britain.

Businessman and philanthropist, Sir Stanley Thomas OBE, will take on the role as the chairman of the fund-raising committee, which also comprises community leaders from Butetown as well as representatives from Wales Rugby League and the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.

The project has the full backing of Cardiff Council, having been convened by council leader Cllr Huw Thomas, who is also vice chair of the committee.

‘One Team – One Race. Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers’ is gaining charitable status by partnering with ‘The Heritage & Cultural Exchange Archive – Tiger Bay and the World’, a highly-respected charity already established in the heart of the old Tiger Bay area.


Huw Thomas – Leader of Cardiff Council
“The exceptional achievements of so many rugby players from Cardiff Bay’s, multi-cultural melting pot have for too long been overlooked. They not only brought honour to themselves, their city and their nation, but also helped to break down the barriers of racism and social injustice. They strode confidently into the wider world, and their example and achievements are an inspiration to us and future generations. It is time for Cardiff to properly celebrate them”

Sir Stanley Thomas OBE – Committee Chairman
“Cardiff has never really done enough to recognise its sporting greats, especially in the Butetown community, where so many superb rugby league players came from. We must give recognition to this community. I am delighted to have been invited to Chair the committee and I want to see this statue erected within two years. It is vital that players like Billy Boston, now 86, are able to see it completed within their lifetime.
“It is important we start this work immediately and I have made a financial contribution to kick-start it. But it is very much a community project and I am sure they, along with the rugby league clubs and authorities in the north, will get behind it.”

Gareth Kear – CEO Wales Rugby League
“To have a project like this, honouring so many of the greatest Welsh rugby league players of the past, is just monumental. It is a watershed moment for us.
“In the North of England they all talk about Tiger Bay and the great players who went up to play rugby league from Cardiff. We need to reflect on our rich past and use it as a signpost for the future.
“It is not just about erecting a statue, this is a project that has at its heart education, sporting excellence and social justice.”

Saeed Ebrahim – Butetown Councillor
“This project will be a huge educational tool for the youngsters in the Butetown area and will act as an inspiration for everyone. What these players achieved on the sporting field was remarkable, but their exploits run much deeper than that. Many of them played a part in breaking down social and racial barriers. More than that, they all proved that you can come from Butetown and the Cardiff Bay area and conquer the world.”

Gaynor Legall – Director, The Heritage & Cultural Exchange Archive – Tiger Bay and the World
“I grew up in the same community in Tiger Bay as the Bostons, Dixons and Freemans. They were heroes to us then for their achievements and they still are. We want their great deeds to be recorded for future generations so they can be a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.”

Lynn Davies – President, Welsh Sports Hall of Fame
“This is a fantastic project that has our wholehearted support and backing. Cardiff has produced so many of the world’s finest rugby league players and a statue to recognise their outstanding achievements is the most fitting way to not only record their incredible contributions, but also to act as an inspiration for the future. None of them ever forgot their roots, but they were able to leave their own communities and use their considerable sporting talents to enhance not only their own reputations, but also that of Wales.”