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Chicago taking stock of their future with Rugby League

With several new teams joining the USA Rugby League competition over the past few years, could the Windy City be the next region to challenge for the USARL Championship?

By Julian Clarkstone

That is definitely what Midwest Rugby League is pushing for, with their development continuing through a three team round robin competition, which will be held across three Sundays in August 2016.

The competition will be played in a nine-a-side (Nines) format and games will be played in two, twenty minute halves.  The nines format is a great opportunity to witness and play free-flowing Rugby League, with the increased space around the field creating more opportunities for fancy footwork, length of the field tries, offloads and tackle breaks.

The Rugby League International Federation has looked at the Nines format as a great opportunity to grow the sport worldwide, with the possibility of establishing a Nines World Cup.

The three teams that will participate in the Midwest Nines competition include the Chicago Stockyarders and two other teams, whose names as well as their logos are to be released soon.

Mike Featherstone is the owner and CEO of Midwest Rugby League and he has been a part of the development league since setting it up in 2009.

Since that time, Midwest Rugby League has continued their push to begin a new conference, falling short in 2012, before getting the Stockyarders to play local rugby union teams in 2014 which provided three teams once again.

“Over the past two years we’ve had 40 to 50 players play at least one game of rugby league and 20 to 25 of them play regularly,” Featherstone said.

Midwest Rugby League will need around 80 players to start up a fourth USARL conference, but the priority in the meantime is the three weekends of competitive Rugby League in August.

“There will not be as much focus on preparation (of the players Rugby League skills) this year, with more of a focus being placed upon promoting this as a development league and attracting guys to play,” Featherstone added.

The Midwest region has definitely had a part to play in USA Rugby League, with Quinn Macali and Dave Whitney being selected for the USA Hawks in 2014 after playing for the Chicago Stockyarders, which highlights the potential that is held within the region.

Mike Featherstone and the team are also doing their very best to provide more and more reasons to attract athletes to Rugby League, which will hopefully see a conference in their region within the next few years.

“We hope to recruit at least one or two players with links to the Midwest region to make appearances this year who may be familiar names within the International Rugby League community,” he said.

For players interested in playing in the Midwest Rugby League matches in August, visit the USARL website to register and the only cost involved is a $35 insurance fee.

If you are interested in learning more about the Midwest Rugby League competition you can contact them at midwestrugbyleague@gmail.com or by following the Chicago Stockyarders on Facebook and Twitter as well as Midwest Rugby League who are also on Facebook and Twitter.

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