USARL Season IV officially kicks off this weekend with the largest Rugby League competition spanning 11 teams throughout the east-coast from Boston all the way to Tampa, Florida.
With the launch of Season IV, much spotlight has been placed on the newly formed South Conference that will see the addition of three (3) teams who have quickly established a media presence and following in their local area. A number of eyes will be closely watching the Atlanta Rhinos who are well entrenched in the local Rugby Union community and are partnered by the highly successful Atlanta Renegades team. Atlanta has also partnered with UK SuperLeague powerhouse, Leeds Rhinos, already receiving much fan and media attention in the UK. Included in the conference are former champions, Jacksonville Axemen, who will host the USARL National Championship Final on Saturday, Aug. 23 at the University of North Florida (UNF).
With the Axemen now front-lining the South Conference, the North Conference will see 7 clubs in two (2) Regions (North-East & Mid-Atlantic). The North Conference includes last year’s National Champions, Philadelphia Fight, competing against familiar foes Boston 13s, Rhode Island Rebellion, Baltimore Blues and DC Slayers. Additional teams battling it out include the newly formed Brooklyn Kings and former AMNRL club, Northern Virginia Eagles who committed to become a USARL member club in February this year.
Boston 13s take on the Baltimore Blues at the Irish Cultural Center (200 New Boston Drive, Canton MA) @2pm in what will be an early test for both clubs. An hour south, Rhode-Island Rebellion play host to newcomers the Brooklyn Kings, most consider they will battle for top spot in the North-East. Back in the Mid-Atlantic, the Northern Virginia Eagles (NOVA) are reunited with local rivals DC Slayers playing their first game since the Slayers became founding members of the USA Rugby League. Rounding out the weekend’s 4th game, Tampa Mayhem have a daunting task of taking on the Jacksonville Axemen; a team most expect to champion the South for the 2014 National Championship silverware.
Last night, the USA Rugby League board voted a last minute plea from the remaining AMNRL clubs for membership and to participate in the USARL 2014 season to be unsuccessful. The USARL extended invitations in January 2014 for these clubs to apply for USARL membership and participation in USARL National Competitions. A further invitation was extended to the remaining clubs in February, without response. A season schedule was created shortly after this to meet the needs of those clubs committed to the USARL that could fulfill obligations for sponsors, players, fans and administrators. On May 16, five (5) AMNRL teams applied as a bloc requesting a merger between organizations.
USA Rugby League Chairman, Peter Illfield commented on the recent developments, “The request to merge organizations and competitions was not in the best of our League’s stakeholders and had ignored all previous correspondence inviting applications for USARL membership status. Additionally, the USARL Board voted that the late request to expand the competition 2 weeks prior to kickoff would cause too much disruption.” Illfield added, “Our message has been consistent since the invitation was sent out in January. Since formation, the USARL has remained aligned with our vision, core administration and ability to make decisions through a democratic and transparent voting process which includes all member clubs. We should applaud the board’s patience and process in vetting these disruptions and having the willingness to consider all possibilities for the future of the game here in the USA”