A letter from Peter Illfield, Chairman of the USARL

Welcome to the end of a successful season, and the beginning of a successful road to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Going into the season…

Peter Illfield Chairman of the USARL

Our focus early in the year was to negotiate for a united competition with AMNRL clubs. From the outset an executive of the USARL Board of Directors worked hard on the promise from Grand Prix Rugby, a subsidiary of Grand Prix Entertainment, they would mediate and finance a unification of Rugby League in the USA. They fell well short on their promise and unification would have to wait.

In the end it was accepted to consolidate the USARL into six healthy clubs for the 2013 season. Due to financial and logistic pressure, Oneida FC and New Haven Warriors withdrew and the remaining clubs would go on to complete their commitments to an enthralling season.

Congrats are in order…

The tyranny of distance was no obstruction to the USARL completing all scheduled games for 2013.  I congratulate Boston 13′s, Rhode Island Rebellion, Philadelphia Fight, Baltimore Blues, Washington DC Slayers and Jacksonville Axemen, and their respective administration, to fulfilling their scheduled requirements and confirming the loyalty these clubs have towards the USARL. Oneida FC, Boston 13′s, along with the North American Match Officials Association (NAMOA) were thrust into crisis management by the sudden and unfortunate return to his homeland, Lebanon, of loyal and hard working USARL Director, Mike Shammas. Oneida FC and Boston 13′s combined their resources, and our thanks are extended to Robin Peers and Dustin Cooper for their work in stabilizing and unifying both clubs to complete their season.

Thanks is also extended to Alan Chmielewski for his tireless work, as co-Director of NAMOA, and cooperation with clubs in the scheduling and assisting of Match Officials during the season.

Drew Slover and the Jacksonville Axemen require special mention for the obligation they showed in traveling great distances every other weekend to play their opposition, along with the extraordinary hospitality they extended to their visiting teams. The Axemen are second-to-none in their exposure to the city of Jacksonville and beyond of their Rugby League feats. They have been the benchmark for many years.

The 2013 season started off with a bang!

Teams from New Zealand, Australia and Jamaica arrived on our shores to compete in the 3rd USARL International 9′s Tournament during May. Hosted by the Philadelphia Fight and the brainchild of Fight and USARL CEO, Ryan McGough, the tournament proved a huge success with the Auckland Metropolitan Police Rugby League FENCIBLES running out winners for the 3rd consecutive time.

In the mean time, the USARL’s American Youth Rugby League Association (AYRLA), headed up by Rhode Island’s Lawrence Almagno and Mike Kelly, were building their second year of after-school and development programs around more than 1,000 children and youth from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These programs included participants from Elementary, Middle and High Schools, Under-23 teams and RI Training School teams, all participating in Rugby League activities and competitions.

During the year AYRLA appointed Robin Peers, from Boston 13′s, as Coaching Director. Robin not only conducted programs in Rhode Island, he also developed and coached school and Under-23 teams out of Boston. He has a RFL coaching accreditation and will deliver coaching courses for Middle and High schools in September.

AYRLA LogoThe highlight of AYRLA’s program this year is the development of Isaac Doe. Born in war-torn Ivory Coast, Africa, Isaac came to the USA as part of a refugee program thirteen years ago. Relocating to Rhode Island with his Mother and Sister at 16, Isaac unfortunately found himself on the wrong side of the law and was consequently incarcerated. It was during this time he met Lawrence, was introduced to Rugby League, participated in Under-23 activities and then selected to play with the USARL’s 3rd placed, Rhode Island Rebellion this season.

Import players to competitions around the Rugby League world have always had their benefits, none less than here in the USA. Most USARL clubs host import players from the strong Rugby League nations of Australia, New Zealand and the UK. They have continued to strengthen and add value to the USARL competition over the years. I pass on my thanks to them all for leaving their families and work for the 4-months of competition.

Notably Brent Shorten. Brent, originally from New South Wales, Australia, and has played for the Jacksonville Axemen for the past 6 seasons and is qualified to represent the USA, playing with the Tomahawks against Canada in September. This can lead to possible selection in the RLWC Tomahawk squad.  As Captain Coach of the Axemen, Brent took his team to the USARL’s 2013 Championship Final. Champions in 2012, it was the Philadelphia Fight’s year with a courageous 28-22 victory over the Axemen.

A Historic Championship Event…

The Fight’s Ryan McGough organized a fantastic Championship Day with a record crowd at their Conshohocken field. With the foresight to reach out to the Tomahawk administration, Ryan also hosted the USA vs Canada test match on the same day immediately following the Championship.

The competition was also pleased to introduced a number of new players to its ranks whom we welcome. They have added to strength of our seasoned stalwarts, five of which we are proud to say have been selected for the USA Tomahawks.

Along with Brent is his Axemen team mate, Apple Pope and three from the 2013 Champions, Philadelphia Fight’s Kevin Wiggins, Matt Clark and Casey Clark. We wish them the best of luck for their march towards the RLWC in October and November.

Looking ahead…

2014 should see the climate change for Rugby League in the USA. With the potential of moving closer to unification comes the interest from several parties to build new clubs for  restructured competitions in the North East, mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. The push for multi-conferences offers greater flexibility and reduced travel, culminating in an exciting environment for USARL playoffs.  A new chapter for USA Rugby League is on our doorstep.

Personally, I thank each individual on the USARL Board of Directors; Ryan McGough, Robin Peers, Lawrence Almagno, Adam Hamon, Asa Jearld, Joe Pontak, Drew Slover, Rich Nolte, Steve Williams and Rich Luthmann for their support and devotion.  A special thanks to Executive members Steve Williams and Rich Luthmann for their unheralded amount of time and contribution. Thanks is also extended to Paul Fleming of the USARL Judiciary.

In closing, our sincere thanks goes out to all of our sponsors, fans, players and supporters who have been loyal to us again this year. Our determination, drive and success depends on them all.

Rugby League fans watch this SPACE!

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