The USARL’s Liberty and Freedom conference system is on hold for 2013, but the rivalry within the northern and southern east coast regions does not stop there, with Liberty region and last year’s USARL Championship finalists, Boston 13s, facing their ever-improving conference neighbors, Rhode Island Rebellion, in the opening two rounds of 2013.
While in the Freedom region, Philadelphia Fight travel south to their arch-rival Washington DC Slayers in the opening round. The Fight, 2nd, and Slayers, 3rd, finished on equal points last year and it was only for-and-against percentages that separated them. The Slayers will be looking to make the Fight’s drive back home a miserable one.
In Florida, the Jacksonville Axemen will host 2012 cellar-dwellers Baltimore Blues for which should be a comfortable start to the season for the 2012 Champions. But the Blues are loyal to the cause and courageous to accept this season’s opening challenge.
Rhode Island Rebellion welcome the early pressure, high level of play and the chance to do battle with the highly regarded 13s on three occasions during the regular season. Along with that big ask, they meet the 2011 Champions, Philadelphia Fight twice and the Axemen in Jacksonville. With the added strength of 3 Aussie import players, a couple of upsets will give the Rebellion tremendous confidence and more than likely a place in the finals for the first time.
The Boston 13s are looking to overcome last seasons Championship loss at home and take that additional step to bring the trophy home with the return of ex-Australian NRL player and 13s Captain Coach, Dustin Cooper. Also returning to the club to join Cooper will be the experienced Robin Peers from the UK.
Two 2011 USARL Championship winning players return to the Fight for 2013. Prop and Championship Captain, Matt Webster, and half-back Joel Weeks. Also making up the import trio for 2013 will be Mackay Magpie’s centre Ben Russell. The Queensland resident has also played with Brisbane Easts Colts. Fight stalwarts Rich Henson, Dave Wilmore, Mike Kelly, Andrew Tully and James Coleman have also returned for the start of pre-season activities.
Coaching duties may be different at the Axemen with the unlikely return of Championship winning hooker and Captain-Coach Mat Keeley for 2013. In contrast, the Axemen welcome back two of their most damaging and respected players, incumbent USA Tomahawk Captain Apple Pope and Akarika Dawn. Dawn, the former USA Tomahawk forward and University of Colorado linebacker has been a force for the Axemen in previous years.
In the nation’s capital, the Washington DC Slayers are excited about improving on their 2012 results. They have an excellent roster and although they face the Axemen and Fight on two occasions each, they will take advantage of the three scheduled matches against Baltimore Blues.
While a tense season unfolds, Lawrence Almagno, CEO of the American Youth Rugby League Association (AYRLA) will be conducting a first in the New England area this summer. A competition involving players from Providence Universities. The competition will be enhanced by the New Haven Warriors and Oneida FC. Both the young Warriors and Oneida will take a spell from the USARL national championship this year while they regroup and rebuild for 2014.