U23 Rugby League Championship Finals Sunday May 12

This weekend will see the first ever U23 championship finals played in the USA.

The event run by the American Youth Rugby League Association (AYRLA) is the result of years of hard work that has also seen the introduction of Rugby League into schools and programs for troubled youths in the Rhode Island and Boston area.

One of the teams in the final “RITS Raiders Black” is from Rhode Island’s only youth offender school facility for juvenile offenders. Lawrence Almagno who heads up the AYRLA first approached the Rhode Island Training School (RITS) as a thought to use the sport of Rugby League as a means to foster the positive development in youthful offenders ranging in age from 15 thru 20.

He and AYRLA GM Mike Kelly, contacted RITS staff Jason Zuena, who was responsible for overseeing all disciplinary matters for these sentenced youth. Larry convinced Jason Zuena that rugby league would be a great tool in developing discipline and teamwork and would also help the youth to challenge themselves in trying new opportunities. Many of the inner city youth didn’t even know that rugby was a sport and initially little interest was displayed.

A year later, the program has evolved into a legitimate program with real teams, uniforms and referees. The entire program has been a volunteer effort with both AYRLA and RITS staff assuming many roles from coach, mentor, cheerleaders and fund-raisers.

Equipment and funding for teams was made possible through generous donations from businesses such as Kewi Physical Therapy’s David Wickiden (NYC) who donated Cleats and Hot Chili Sports Wear (Leeds UK) who supplied kits for the RITS teams.

8 weeks ago the results were on full display, as the 2 RITS teams had their first league game. For the 35 young men involved in this game, it was also a defining moment for them, not only in terms of competing, but in accepting new challenges, dedicating and motivating themselves to achieve new goals.

RITS Superintendent Joseph Cardin expressed his thoughts on what the introduction of Rugby League has done for his school, “Rugby League has truly transformed many of our young men and taught them self discipline and respect for each other. While it is difficult to predict the future, recent events have been a game changer for our youth and we really anticipate future success. When the sport of rugby league is combined with the passion of coaches and players such as Lawrence Almagno, Jason Zuena and the RI Rebellion, it has truly become a winning formula.”

Now in its third year, AYRLA has various programs in a number of states and anticipates by the end of 2013 it will have registered over 1,000 students to have played rugby league.

If you are a business or individual that is looking to make a donation, please contact AYRLA GM Mike Kelly at

About AYRLA:
The American Youth Rugby League Association (AYRLA) is a not for profit corporation that partners with The USA Rugby League, developing youth in all aspects of their life, providing role models from a top-down approach, REBELLING against At Risk Behavior.

AYRLA & USA Rugby League—AYRLA is also proud to be working closely with the USA Rugby League to fulfill the youth development goal of improving fitness and well-being in students and developing character that will cross over into the participants’ day to day lives. USA Rugby League endorses AYRLA as the national program for developing non-contact and contact Rugby League in schools and educational organizations. Lawrence Almagno, founder of the program, is also the Director of the USA Rugby League’s Club & Youth Development in addition to being the Founder & CEO of the Rhode Island Rebellion. USA Rugby League is supporting certain AYRLA affiliates throughout the country to help them develop their AYRLA programs. By working together, AYRLA and USA Rugby League both benefit from sharing their ideas and experiences, increasing the numbers of youth playing the game and lowering the average age of such players.

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