With Championship rugby coming to an unsurprising, but totally justifiable halt recently, the Cornish Pirates have announced two departures.
Firstly, it was revealed that director of rugby Chris Sterling was taking a sabbatical away from the Mennaye Field for the second time in recent years.
After joining the Penzance based outfit in 2008 as a consultant, he was then appointed high performance manager for the 2009-10 campaign. He left in April 2012 due to a lack of progress with the Stadium for Cornwall and moved back to New Zealand.
After spells with the national rugby union and Super Rugby franchise Hurricanes, he moved back to England with Pirates’ fellow Championship rivals Yorkshire Carnegie.
The Leeds-based outfit finished the 2018-19 season in dire financial straits and Sterling subsequently left Headingley with the Mennaye his destination again.
Initially inking a three-year deal to become Pirates’ director of rugby, this has been cut short due to external factors.
In a club statement, the Pirates revealed that due to due to funding cuts and further problems with the new stadium, Sterling will be going home, but will return if construction work begins.
It said: “Following the Rugby Football Union’s recent cuts in funding and the delay in construction of the Stadium for Cornwall, because the Council has yet to transfer the land, it means that the Cornish Pirates and Chris have agreed that in the best interests of the club he will take a sabbatical.
“Chris will only return to the role once the stadium construction has started. This is the second time we have had to ask Chris to stand back from our long-term plans and we are determined it does not happen again.”
Then, on Wednesday, the club revealed that Club captain Brett Beukeboom has decided to retire with immediate effect. The 30-year-old, who played for his native Canada in the 2015 World Cup, joined the Pirates from Devon rivals Plymouth Albion after the global competition, which took place on these shores, had finished.
It is understood that Beukeboom was planning to retire at the end of this current campaign, but with the season being cut short owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the announcement was brought forward.
With the curtain coming down on a fantastic playing career, Beukeboom made 107 appearances for the Pirates with the 2018-19 a stand-out campaign for the Canadian individually.
He was awarded the coveted John Sterling Cup for commitment and scooped the President’s Cup for being adjudged the Pirates’ most outstanding on-field contributor.
With his boots now hung up, Beukeboom will now return to his hometown of Lindsay in Ontario where he plans to try his hand at coaching, passing on a wealth of knowledge gained at both club and international level.
After his retirement was confirmed, Beukeboom said: “I would like to thank everyone at the Pirates for their amazing support over the past five seasons. Everyone involved made my stay unbelievable and I will cherish my memories on and off the pitch. Naturally, I would have liked to personally express appreciation to everyone in person, however due to the recent pandemic this was not advisable.
“Staff members are thanked for their dedication and professionalism throughout the years, as are those who have been my teammates.
“They form a great group of players, many whom could be playing at a higher level, and they have made may stay unforgettable.
“Best wishes to everyone, and if you are interested in visiting Canada then you have a place to stay.
“Finally, my thanks are expressed to all the supporters, whose backing over the years has been unreal. This club is one of a kind, because of you.”
Pirates head coach Alan Paver paid tribute to his former captain and believes Beukeboom will leave a legacy in Cornwall for ‘the contribution he has made’.
“Obviously for the community, our club and our team it is a sad time to see Brett go, because he has been such a massive part in our recent history and what we have done,” said Paver.
“He’s been a real stalwart of the side, putting a great shift in body-wise plus leading the team fantastically in the captaincy role.
“As for his decision to return home to start a fresh life, it is one we respect and have known about for a long time.
“At some stage one has to make big boy decisions reference the future, and although we’ll miss him, Brett will not be forgotten, because of the man he is and the contribution he has made.”
Pirates’ chief executive Rebecca Thomas had her say on Beukeboom too, describing him as one of rugby’s ‘nicest guys’. Brett has been the ultimate clubman throughout his time as a Pirate,” she added. “This has been recognised by his captaincy for the past two seasons. He has always gone the extra mile for the club and leading by example, whether it be community work, with supporters or always giving everything on the pitch. He is a natural leader on and off the field and I’m sure most people would describe him as ‘one of the nicest guys in rugby’.
“His dedication to the Pirates and what he has helped us achieve has been outstanding and having to hang up his boots without the send off he deserves from all of the supporters and his colleagues is not what we would have chosen, but in these unfortunate circumstances, it can’t be helped. We wish Brett all the best on his return to Canada and for the future, he will be hugely missed and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say a massive thank you for everything he has contributed over the years.”