A Frenchman with experience of having played plenty of rugby league both in his homeland and in the UK, Leigh Centurions’ Kevin Larroyer is an interesting person to speak to regarding the sport. Currently studying for a sports management qualification at Leeds Beckett University alongside his playing duties, the 28 year old is a man with an eye both on the future and the present. Get ’em Onside was able to speak to the accommodating Frenchman and it became clear that one of his worst experiences in the sport led him to his current off-field venture.
2016 was a bad year for Hull Kingston Rovers but it was arguably worse for Larroyer. “I got injured for six months during the first friendly game, we were relegated at the end of the season and to finish with I lost my contract. My head was all over the place, it was too much to take on, I was in a really dark place,” he explained, citing the support of his partner and son as the only way he could keep going. In the off-season, he trained with Hull FC despite being without a club, articulating that “when relegation happened, most of the clubs had completed their signings. It was tough to heard just bad news from your agent. I felt like I was the worst rugby league player around.”
However, in February last year Castleford Tigers signed the Frenchman on a one year deal before immediately loaning him out to Bradford. Of his time at the Tigers, Larroyer was clearly grateful that they took a chance on him. “I feel so lucky and grateful to have been involved with a team like Castleford. Unfortunately, I didn’t played as much as I would want but I learned a lot during my time there,” he explained. He only made a handful of appearances for the Tigers but had a decent record, Cas winning five of the six Super League matches he appeared in.
As the Tigers entertained throughout 2017, his time on loan at Bradford saw the club fall out of the Championship – albeit with a twelve point deduction for entering administration – and, while being involved with both teams was strange for Larroyer, he admitted to a sadness at what happened to the club. “I felt sorry for the boys as I had few friends there. Their situation reminded me my tough time after the relegation, everyone full of uncertainty,” he revealed.
It’s fair to say that, throughout his career, Larroyer has seen a lot and has experienced some very hard times. Having started his career with his hometown team Toulouse in 2010, he moved on two years later to Super League’s Catalans Dragons – a team who are suffering their own troubles at the moment. Speaking of the state of rugby league in his homeland, he admitted that “the situation with Catalans now is really sad for French rugby league – especially with Toulouse getting better and better. We need two strong French side to lift the French rugby league.” The work of Sylvain Houles at the Betfred Championship club is something Larroyer admires. “They mostly bet on their academy and have brought a number of French players to the top flight in the recent years,” he explained, further adding that “I wish Catalans could do the same as they have so many talented players in their academy like Lucas Albert. I would like to see more French youngsters having a crack in England like Oliver Élima and, more recently, Theo Fages. They should be the example for the new generation.”
However, if Catalans can build on their 25-24 victory over Hull FC and manage to maintain their Super League status for 2019, the Leigh forward shared one of the things he would love to see in the not-too-distant future. “Having a French derby in Super League between Catalans and Toulouse would be the best advert for rugby league in France,” something which, with the Championship team getting stronger every year, isn’t a pipedream. He believes that the passion of the game across the Channel, though, needs to spread to the bigger cities in the country. “Big work need to be done in France to expand the game. We need rugby league in places like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier if you want to attract potential investors and more interest.”
However, looking at the here and now, Larroyer is a member of the Leigh Centurions team who, after a poor start, are starting to look like top four contenders. Speaking of their opening to the season, the second-rower suggested that “maybe we were a little bit too confident before the start of the season. I think we listened too much to what people were saying about us – that we were a Super League side.” Perhaps their early performances warranted more points than they earned with Larroyer explaining his belief that “our lack of consistency was the main reason for our poor start. We lost so many games in the last 15 mins after being in front at halftime.”
Now, the Centurions are in the midst of an eight game winning run with a trip to a London Broncos team currently sitting one place and two points ahead of them this Sunday. That strong streak means that, with a game in hand on the Broncos, the recently-relegated Super League team are definitely in the mix for a top four spot and Larroyer believes the club have a great chance of finishing there. “To me it’s not how you start but how you finish and we definitely still believe it’s achievable,” he explained. “We need victory against our direct competitors and to do the job against the other teams as we don’t have many jokers left in our hands.”
Away from the game, it was initially Larroyer’s response to Get ’em Onside’s interview with Motu Tony which initiated this interview and, following his release from Hull KR, he explained how that led to something promising off the pitch. “After the relegation I realised that rugby wasn’t for ever. Now, I’m studying a degree in Sport Business Management at Leeds Beckett University and I regret I didn’t jump into it before.” Previously, Larroyer explained to myself that Motu Tony’s success in the area was something of an inspiration to him. Currently in his first year of the degree, he added that “it’s still early yet so I’ve not settled on a particular job. The good thing about this degree is that it isn’t for just one job but it prepares you to be able to work in any job in the sport industry.” Clearly a man with an eye on his future after rugby league, he shared that he has a business idea for the future which he hopes he will be able to pursue.
However, if that doesn’t materialise, he hopes to be able to give something back to the team that gave him his break in the sport. “I would love work at some point for my hometown club Toulouse Olympique in the offices to keep developing the club and rugby league in the city. I feel like I owe so much to this club as it’s this club who raised me and allowed me to have a dream. Without this club I would had never made it.”