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One Team. One Race: Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers

A statue celebrating some of the country’s greatest sporting heroes, designed to ensure their stories and the story of the proud and vibrant multi-cultural community which helped shape them are never forgotten.

The People’s Choice

Following a public vote which received over 14,000 votes, three of the greatest rugby league players in the history of the game – Billy Boston, Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan – were selected to adorn a statue to commemorate the Cardiff Bay Codebreakers.

The public and a special panel of experts agreed on the trio who will now be immortalised on a statue that will represent all the players who headed north from the Cardiff Bay area to star in the 13-a-side game.

The public were offered a list of 13 former greats who were all born in an area that took in the old Tiger Bay, Butetown, Grangetown, Adamsdown and Splott areas of south Cardiff and invited to vote for their favourite three.

All the players were then awarded extra points for their career successes before a seven strong panel of experts, including the current captains of the Welsh men’s and women’s rugby league teams, Elliot Kear and Rafique Taylor, as well as all-time greats Jim Mills and Jonathan Davies, were presented with the top six selections.

They were given the chance to choose their top three, earning extra points for their picks, to complete the selection process. All members of the panel agreed with the public vote and so Boston, Risman and Sullivan will now join forces on a plinth that will also remember the other 10 players.

Billy Boston

Clive Sullivan

Gus Risman

Make a donation

Help us raise the required funds to create the three permanent pieces of artwork.

Any donations raised over the target amount will be allocated to support legacy projects within the community.

Some of the country’s greatest sporting heroes are to be immortalised in a permanent artwork 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’ launched on Sporting Heritage Day, 2020.

The project is raising money to create a statue chosen from 13 sports stars who made a telling contribution playing in Rugby League over the past 120 years.

All thirteen 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.

Included among the 13 Rugby Codebreakers, who all hail from the Cardiff Bay area and surrounding neighbourhoods are:

3 World Cup winners
9 Great Britain internationals
12 Welsh internationals
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

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, is the chairman of the fund-raising committee, which also comprises community leaders from Butetown as well as representatives from the public and private sectors.

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. The committee is also supported and advised by Capital Law and Azets Accountants.

Meet the Cardiff Bay Rugby League Giants XIII

A fundraising committee has been set up, Chaired by Sir Stanley Thomas OBE and Vice Chaired by The Leader of Cardiff Council Cllr Huw Thomas.

Other members include:

Ruth Cayford Head of Creative & Cultural Industries, Cardiff Council
Rob Cole Sports Journalist & Board Member, Wales Sports Hall of Fame
Paul Cubbitt Caseworker/Support Officer, Welsh Government
John  Davey The Institue of Chartered Shipbrokers
Stephen Dougthy MP Cardiff South & Penarth
Cllr Saeed Ebrahim Butetown Ward
Mike Fenwick Associate Director, Verde Corporate Finance
Vaughan Gething MS Minister for Economy
Cllr Russell Goodway Cabinet Member, Investment & Development
Louise Harrington Commercial Development Manager, Cardiff Council
Marlies Hoecherl Partner, Capital Law
Gareth Kear Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers Limted, Director
Gaynor Legall Chair of The Heritage & Cultural Exchange
Jim Mills Wales and GB Rugby League
Hywel Peterson Former Chairman, Sam Warburton Testimonial Year
Ken Poole Head of Economic Development, Cardiff Council
Ian Thomas Partner, Azets
Nigel Walker Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Welsh Rugby Union

The fundraising committee has commissioned sculptor Steve Winterburn of Yorkshire Fine Arts, chose for his wealth of experience memorialising sporting legends having already immortalised Billy Boston in a statue in Wigan and created the iconic rugby league ‘Heroes’ statue at Wembley Stadium which includes both Billy Boston and Clive Sullivan.

With over 30 years of experience Steve founded Yorkshire Fine Arts thanks to his wealth of knowledge and experience. Steve is self-taught and comes from the fine art industry, his pieces have been sold internationally, from London to Monte Carlo and Barbados.

His work has been exhibited and sold in some of the most prestigious galleries such as The Halcyon, Harrods, Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Steve’s career started out as a wildlife artist, his passion for the animals lead him the be a part of conservation for many years as a trustee for Care for the Wild International. During this time, Steve was able to travel all over the world to get reference and inspiration for his art.

Steve takes part in all aspects of the processes undertaken at Yorkshire Fine Arts, but predominantly focus’s his time and energy sculpting.

Sculptor Steve Winterburn, who has been commissioned to design and build the Cardiff Codebreakers statue in Cardiff Bay, took time out seek inspiration from the young people of the area on two school visits recently. Winterburn, who was responsible for the statue of Billy Boston in Wigan and the Rugby league statue at Wembley, explained to pupils from Mountstuart Primary School and St Mary the Virgin Church in Wales School, what was behind the project.

And not only did he explain the process he goes through to complete his projects once engaged, but also invited the children to become a part of the process. “It was great to be able to explain to the children how we take a concept, design it on paper, take it through the developmental phase and then end up with a massive metal structure,” explained Winterburn.

“I was able to get the children to do some drawing sand then play a part in the selection process on how we arrange the three figures selected to go on the commemorative plinth. Their ideas and comments will now be fed back into the creative process.

“The fact the three rugby league greats, Billy Boston, Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan, were all born in their area made it easier to make a connection with them. Some of the children were actually born in the same street as Billy and Gus and one of them lives next door to Billy’s sister! “That’s what made the visit to the two schools so special and so important. The statue is not just about telling the story of the three players, it is there to proudly represent the people of the area from where they were from.”

St Mary the Virgin Church in Wales School, in South Clive Street, is a stone’s throw from the site of the old North Clive Street School, where both Billy and Gus were pupils. “The pupils and their teacher, Chris Darlington, were delighted to hear the stories about the successes of the three players in rugby league and amazed that both Billy and Gus became world class despite coming from a school in Cardiff Bay,” added Winterburn. “I know the Cardiff Codebreakers committee are keen to let the stories of not only the three players who will be on the statue, but also the others who were involved in the selectionprocess, filter down to all ages in the community so that everyone can be inspired when they see the finished work.”

Cardiff Council Leader, Huw Thomas said: “The statues for Billy, Gus and Clive will be erected in the heart of the Cardiff Bay area. Engaging local school children in the creative process will both inspire them and make the proud of their local community and the way in which these players broke out of their local boundaries, beat racial prejudices and went on to become global sports stars. “The statue of the three of them will be a great addition to the city and we hope it will inspire others for years to come.” Sir Stanley Thomas, Chairman of the Fundraising Committee said: “It was great to hear of the interest our sculptor, Steve Winterburn, generated when he went around the schools in Cardiff Bay. The reaction from the children to hearing about these great sporting stars who grew up in their community and went on to become global stars was tremendous.

“They also provided Steve with some good tips on how they would like to see the statue presented. These points have been taken on board and factored into the finished article. “Community engagement in the project has always been important to us and the school visits were an important aspect of this vital element. It is these youngsters that we hope will be inspired by Steve’s final piece of work.

“What really brought home the value of his visits was when one of the pupils said he lived next door to Billy’s sister in Angelina Street. He certainly had a story to tell when he got home.” The concept, ‘One Team – One Race, Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers’, was launched to raise money to create a statue chosen from 13 sports stars who made a telling contribution playing in Rugby League over the past 120 years.

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. Following a public vote Billy Boston, Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan have been selected to adorn a statue, which will be erected in the Cardiff Bay area, to commemorate the Cardiff Bay Codebreakers.

Clive Sullivan, the Cardiff-born sporting legend set to be immortalised by a new statue in his home city, is to be honoured at this year’s Rugby League World Cup.

Sully Ball
Born in Splott in 1943, Sullivan was the first black sportsman to captain a British national team and the last man to lead a British team to World Cup glory, when his remarkable try against Australia in the 1972 event helped Great Britain to win the title.

Though he died of cancer in 1985 aged just 42, his fame in Cardiff has long been assured and he is revered as one of rugby’s ‘Codebreakers’ – the players who controversially switched from the amateur ranks of rugby union to become paid rugby league stars. Some battled racism and prejudice before being hailed as heroes in the north of England.

Now Sullivan’s fame will reach a new generation of rugby league fans as this year’s tournament organisers have named the match ball to be used in all 61 games across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair events the ‘Sully Ball’.

It was unveiled at the MKM Stadium, the home of Hull FC where Sullivan remains the all-time leading try-scorer, and the honour recognises Sullivan as one of Wales’ greatest sportsmen who represents the core values of the tournament and the history of rugby league and acknowledges the significant impact he had on the sport.

“My father would be both honoured and humbled to see his achievements recognised in this manner,” said Anthony Sullivan, himself a former Wales dual code international. “For all the family it will be very special to see him appreciated in this way and for his name to positively impact future generations within the sport.”

In Cardiff, Sullivan will be one of three ‘Codebreakers’ – alongside Billy Boston and Gus Risman, all from the Butetown and Tiger Bay areas of the city – featured on a huge bronze statue now being sculpted by renowned artist Steve Winterburn. It will mark the contribution to the sport made by 13 players, the so-called ‘Cardiff Bay giants’, who made a huge impact on rugby league.

Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas, the vice-chair of the committee which has so far raised £150,000 towards the statue, said he was thrilled that Sullivan’s latest honour has come at a key moment. “The first semi-final of the World Cup will be played on the 50th anniversary of Clive’s great try against Australia and I’m sure we will be reminded of what an iconic moment it was.

“We as a council are committed to honouring all the Codebreakers and the statue will take pride of place at a key location in Cardiff Bay and ensure that their stories, and the story of the proud and vibrant multi-cultural community which helped shape them – are never forgotten.”

A statue celebrating three of Cardiff’s legendary ‘Rugby Codebreakers’ has been unveiled in Cardiff Bay today. It is the first statue in Wales ever to feature non-fictionalised, named black men.

Designed by sculptor Steve Winterburn, whose work is renowned for its realistic, action-filled character, the statue in Landsea Square immortalises three of Wales’s greatest sporting heroes, chosen by a public vote: Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan, and Gus Risman.

The ‘One Team. One Race: Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers’ project behind the statue was established in 2020, and was inspired by 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.

Chairman of the One Team. One Race: Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers project, businessman and philanthropist, Sir Stanley Thomas OBE, who kick started fundraising for the statue with a significant personal donation, said: “I am delighted after just 2 years of campaigning and raising funds, we as a committee have reached our fundraising target and we are all here today with Billy, the families of all players, donors and local community unveiling this magnificent piece of art by Steve Winterburn that recognises these wonderful sporting legends in their home city of Cardiff.


“I would like to personally extend my thanks to Welsh Government, Cardiff Council, The Heritage and Cultural Exchange, the Peterson Family, Rugby Football League Facilities Trust, Cardiff and Vale College and The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers for their kind donations and the support of Capital Law, Verde Finance, Azets and Rio for their professional skills and time supporting the delivery of this project.”

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “To have a statue of these incredible players at the heart of Cardiff Bay, in touching distance of the proud multi-cultural communities where they grew up, will serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come. Their achievements have been overlooked for too long, and I’m delighted that today, they are finally being honoured and celebrated in the city of their birth. I’m grateful to all who’ve helped make it happen”

Chair of the Heritage and Cultural Exchange, Gaynor Legall, said: “I grew up in the same community as these players. They were heroes to us then for their achievements and they still are. It’s wonderful to be here today with members of the local community to see the unveiling of this fantastic statue and have their great deeds recorded for future generations, so they can be a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.”

Billy Boston

Born on 6 August, 1934 in Angelina Street, Billy went to South Church Street School and played for Cardiff Schools, Cardiff and District Rugby Union, Boys Clubs of Wales, Wales Youth, the CIACS and Neath in rugby union.

While still a teenager, he signed for Wigan RL for £3,000. He went on to score 478 tries in 487 matches for them, helping them to win the six Challenge Cup finals they reached in his 15 seasons at the club.

Billy also scored twice in Wigan’s 1960 Championship final victory to earn them their first title in eight years, and picked up two Lancashire League and one Lancashire Cup winners medals.

Internationally, he won the World Cup with Great Britain and played 31 times for the Lions, becoming their first black tourist in Australia.

Billy is in the Rugby League and Wigan Halls of Fame, on the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame’s ‘Roll of Honour’ and was made MBE for his services to sport. He also has a statue dedicated to him at Wigan and is included on the Rugby League statue at Wembley Stadium.

Clive Sullivan

Born in Splott on 9 April, 1943, Clive became the first black captain of any Great Britain side and led his country to the 1972 Rugby League World Cup title, scoring a try in each of his side’s four games in the tournament, including a length-of-the-field effort against Australia that earned a 10-10 draw to clinch the trophy.

He joined the Army from school and had rugby league trials in his late teens. He eventually joined Hull and went on to play 352 games for the club, scoring 250 tries. He later switched to Hull Kingston Rovers and added 118 tries in 213 games. He won the Challenge Cup with both clubs.

In 1966-67 he made his full Great Britain debut, marking the first of his 17 caps by scoring the winning try against France in the last minute. He also featured in the 1968 World Cup series in Australia and captained Wales at the 1975 World Cup.

In 1974 he was honoured with an MBE and he is on the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame ‘Roll of Honour’. The main road into Hull was named ‘Clive Sullivan Way’ in his honour.

Gus Risman

The son of Russian immigrants who settled in Tiger Bay, Gus was born on 23 March, 1911, in Sophia Street and went to South Church Street School. His parents ran a boarding house and then moved to Barry to run a cafe when Gus was 11. He became one of the greatest rugby players produced by Wales, captaining the 15-a-side team in War Time internationals despite being a rugby league legend.

His rugby league career statistics are staggering and he is a member of the Rugby League and Workington Halls of Fame as well as being on the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame ‘Roll of Honour’. He already has a street named after him in Salford and Workington and is on the Rugby League statue at Wembley Stadium.

Between 1929 and 1954 he scored 4,052 points in 873 games for Salford and Workington Town. He also played in 36 Test matches for Great Britain, playing in five Ashes winning series, and won 18 Welsh caps.

He won four Rugby League Championships, went to Wembley for the Challenge Cup final three times, picked up five Lancashire League titles and three Lancashire Cup winners medals. He was captain of the Workington Town team that won the Challenge Cup at 41.

What they have to say about the project

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.

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.

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.

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.

National Sporting Heritage Day exists to share and celebrate the amazing sporting heritage which exists in our communities. Sporting Heritage encourages individuals and organisations to use the event to raise awareness of previously unrecognised or under-represented sporting heritage. This project embodies that ethos and will begin to share so many diverse achievements for the first time whilst acting as inspirational stories for the future.