Rugby League legends statue to be unveiled on Wednesday

The statue celebrating three legendary Wales Rugby League legends, Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan, and Gus Risman will be unveiled during a public ceremony in Landsea Square in Mermaid Quay on Wednesday 19thJuly at 11am. The general public are invited, all are welcome.

All three players featured on the statue grew up within a three-mile radius of the Cardiff Bay area and went on to become some of the country’s greatest sporting heroes.

The mark of a great player from yesteryear was often Challenge Cup final appearances and international caps and our international players were successful in both of these aspects. Billy Boston helped Wigan to lift the Cup at Wembley three times. Gus Risman won the Cup with three different sides, Salford, Leeds and Workington, whilst Clive Sullivan, who not only broke barriers by becoming the first black player to captain a sports side representing the whole of Great Britain, but he won the Cup twice, once each with Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers.

Internationally, the trio won 101 full international caps between them. Sullivan, who famously captain Great Britain to a World Cup win in 1972 won 32 caps (Wales 15, GB 17), Risman was on 36 when he retired (18 for each side), while Boston was on 33 with 31 of those being for Great Britain. He also won two for “Other Nationalities” in an era where this side largely replaced Wales in international competition due to a lack of players at the time. He did play once for Wales against France B but in the two times that Wales met France in a full international game during his playing days, he was injured.

And three players were try scoring machines and are all on the exclusive list of Wales Rugby League players to have scored over 200 in their career. Risman ended up with 232 in his career, Sullivan with 406 and Boston with an outstanding 571, the second best in the world ever.

Wales Rugby League chairman, Brian Juliff said: “Wales Rugby League are very grateful to Sir Stanley Thomas O.B.E, Cllr. Huw Thomas, Gaynor Legall, Ken Poole and all those who were part of the fundraising committee that have made this possible.

“All the former codebreakers who left their homes to play Rugby League over the 120-plus years that the game has been in existence will be proud to salute the unveiling of this statue to commemorate three of the very best Rugby League players of all time in their hometown of Cardiff.

“It was a privilege to have played alongside Clive and to have shared memories with Billy Boston over the years and it’s wonderful that Billy will be at the ceremony as a living legend to be immortalised in the city of his birth.

“Gus, Clive and Billy were outstanding sportsmen, a credit to Cardiff and Wales and this statue will ensure their fame will live on to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”

WRL general manager, Mark Jones adds: “This is an event that I’ve been looking forward to attending for some time. At Wales Rugby League, we’re in very good health right now with record participation levels, and as we look to the future, it’s always good to celebrate our successful past, and there are few players who were more successful than Billy Boston, Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan.

“Both Clive and Billy were brought up in a world where they were often shunned for the colour of their skin, but in rugby league they were welcomed into a diverse community and were allowed to not only show off their talents but in Clive’s case, captain Great Britain. These days, we continue to pride ourselves in our diversity, running female programmes, as well as Physical Disability and Wheelchair Rugby League, the latter accepting all genders.

“Everyone at WRL, would like to thank all who were involved in the Rugby Codebreakers project for ensuring we have an everlasting legacy to three of Cardiff’s and Wales’ best sporting legends of all time.”

Established in 2020, the โ€˜One Team. One Race: Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers‘ project behind the statue was inspired to begin fundraising for a statue following calls from the Butetown and wider Cardiff Bay community for a fitting tribute to the players who did so much to improve race relations across Britain. 

Businessman and philanthropist, Sir Stanley Thomas OBE, took on the role as the chairman of the fundraising committee and kickstarted the fundraising campaign with a significant personal donation. 

Sir Stanley Thomas OBE, said: “I am delighted that we are now close to the point where the statue will be revealed to the public, and these wonderful sporting heroes will finally receive the recognition they deserve, in the city where they grew up.”

The three players featured on the statue were selected by a public vote. All have been honoured in some form in other areas of the UK, but the statue in Cardiff Bay, created by sculptor Steve Winterburn, will be the first formal recognition of the sporting heroes in their hometown.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “These incredible players brought honour to themselves, their families, the game, and the proud multi-cultural communities where they were brought up. Once in place, the statue will ensure their stories live on as a constant source of inspiration for future generations.” 

Chair of the Heritage and Cultural Exchange, Gaynor Legall, said: “The installation of the statue will mean a lot to us, something that looks like us and is about us and our story; that shares the pride that we have in those individuals with the rest of Wales. Having statues that celebrate their achievements is not just for the people of Tiger Bay but for Wales.” 

Please see below for details on the status unveiling.