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Czech Rugby League champions transformed into Rabbitohs


The current CZRLA Second Division Grand Final winners Chrudim Angels have been rebranded the Rabbitohs after entering into a strategic partnership with Australian powerhouse club South Sydney, owned by Russell Crowe.  

Chrudim, who were established in 2011, came to the attention of the famous NRL outfit when Rabbitohs CEO Shane Richardson was a guest of the CZRLA at their annual awards night last year and also attended the Grand Final on the same weekend, witnessing Chrudim’s win over a gallant Slavia Hradec Kralove  to complete the double of the League Leaders and Premiers.
To consolidate the partnership a CZRLA contingent met with the South Sydney management in Sydney recently, where Richardson took them on a tour of the club’s impressive Redfern facilities and they observed a torrid elite squad training session.
The delegation discussed rugby league development in the Czech Republic with South Sydney Football Manager and former player Mark Ellison and were presented with a full 2013 Rabbitohs playing kit, which will be worn by Chrudim in their 2014 campaign.
Churdim Club Manager and CZRLA Board member Bruno Jasiczek enthused: “It was a great to have the opportunity to be shown round such an historic facility and that such a legendary rugby league name are taking an interest in what we are doing with developing the game in the Czech Republic.”
“We at the Chrudim Rugby League Club are honoured to become part of the Rabbitohs family and are greatly looking forward to playing as the Rabbitohs. We are also looking forward to the day a Chrudim player will be representing South Sydney in the NRL!”

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Pardubice-Chrudim Rabbitohs won the annual Czech rugby league pre-season 9s tournament after they defeated Slavia Hradec Kralove in the final.

Neighbouring Pardubice and Chrudim have combined their resources and will field sides in divisions one and two this season with backing from NRL giants South Sydney.

The joint venture beat Lokomotiva Beroun 24-8 in their opening game, Beroun’s first defeat in any form of rugby league since they were defeated by the Pardubice Jets in the 2011 CZRLA Grand Final.

Pardubice-Chrudim and Beroun subsequently recorded close victories over Havlickuv Brod Eagles to complete the Pool A games.

In Pool B, host club Slavia Hradec Kralove defeated Mikulov Roosters and local rivals Vrchlabi Mad Squirrels,

In the decider, Marek Pluhar, Vit Rejda, Jiri Novak, Vit Caslavka and emerging star Patrik Koliska engineered a two tries to nil victory for the Rabbitohs in front of an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred.

The 2014 Czech First Division Championship season kicks-off this weekend with Teplice Dragons making the CZRLA’s longest away trek to play Mikulov Roosters and Pardubice-Chrudim facing Lokomotiva Beroun at home.

Seven clubs will compete in the extended format, with home and away fixtures played before the high summer shutdown, followed by an extended eight team play-off series which will include the leading second division club, culminating in a Grand Final to be played on the first weekend of November.

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The European Rugby League Leadership Devolution Project is underway, with the Czech Rugby League Association hosting a four-day match officials seminar attended by English, Swedish and Maltese delegates.


The tutor training and assessing was linked with the annual season-opening CZRLA 9s tournament in Hradec Kralove and culminated in the delivery of a Level 1 Match Officials course.


The project is the largest international technical development initiative in rugby league history, with over €330.000 of investment - €195.000 of which is from the European Union – spread over 17 participant countries - whose objective is to produce fully trained and qualified match official and coach tutors.


The concept is based around clusters of nations and a mentoring system. In this cluster the English Rugby Football League mentors the Czechs who will lead on the technical delivery in the first phases of the project, before themselves playing a mentor role with the Maltese and Swedes.


“I came away from it a lot more knowledgeable and practical experience as a tutor,” said Swedish Rugby League tutor-candidate Rajendra Shah. He was accompanied by his colleague Paris Ghavidel-Asgari.


Serbian referee Aleksandar Markovic, now residing in Malta and the lead official in Malta's 2014 Dove Men+Care Championship added: "I had a great time in the Czech Republic; I learned so much from my tutors. I am never going to forget my time on this course." He was joined by Malta Rugby League official Anthony Micallef.


Lead CZRLA tutor Petr Sedina, who will attend the activity in Malta, was satisfied with the outcome which saw 16 new Czech officials qualified. “It was a great help to CZRLA domestic activities. We hope this will assist us to build a platform to expand CZRLA even further going forward,” he commented.


RLEF match official squad members Phil Smith and Paul Stockman oversaw the weekend’s activities. Smith said, “The tutor training went really well. We were able to spend lots of time with Raj, Alex and Pais. They did the full course; outside practical sessions; refereed and assisted in sessions with the Czechs.”

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This board is the most positive one on the forum. It is exciting to hear about progress in diverse places like Czech Republic, Greece, Kenya, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. Hopefully one day this will be one of the busiest boards because we will be discussing how numerous countries are taking to the greatest game.

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The 2014 Czech First Division Championship kicked-off with the teams who finished in the top three last season all being defeated.


In the biggest upset of the round, the newly branded and promoted Czech Rabbitohs – made up of players from the Pardubice Jets and Chrudim clubs - beat twice defending champions Lokomotiva Beroun, 38-10.


Vit Caslavka was the pick of an impressive team effort for the Rabbitohs while Jiri Sluka, in his first game back since a mid-2012 knee operation, was the best forward on the field despite being on the losing side.


In another major upset, Slavia Hradec Kralove defeated 2013 Grand Finalists and their former partner club, Vrchlabi Mad Squirrels, 40-16.


Czech national team half-back Lada Cintler provided the impetus for the win, impressing Squirrels player/coach and new national coach David Lahr.  


The third match of the opening round saw Teplice Dragons travel to Mikulov to take on the Roosters, who defeated them in the 2012 Second Division Grand Final, and grinding out a 28-22 win on the back of some powerful running from forwards Antonin Berk and Jiri Hubka and magic by half-back, Jindra Jirotka.


For CZRLA stalwart, Richard York, who has played a pivotal role in organising several partnerships between Czech clubs and their professional namesakes in the broader rugby league community, the growth of the game in the Republic is satisfying.


“It is great to see professional clubs in Australia and France take such a keen interest in our development of the game here,” he said. “And we are able to spread awareness of them in the growing Czech market.”


“All we need now, is to get regular footage from the NRL and/or Super League onto domestic free-to-air Czech television to really capitalize on the boom in participation levels here.”


Orli Havlickuv Brod, who had the bye in the opening round, took the opportunity to play a friendly with Usti nad Labem Blades, who debut in the CZRLA second division this year, Pavel Kubasta’s men running out 52-0 winners and posting their intent in what looks like being a fascinating season.

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Vrchlabi, home of the Mad Squirrels club, will be a hot-bed of rugby league from tomorrow (Thursday) when a week of development work featuring five countries commences.


RLEF Coaching Manager, Martin Crick, will oversee the first phase of a coach tutor course for the Czech Republic hosts, Malta and Sweden, as part of the EU Leadership Devolution Project.


Then, on Sunday, the Latvian U18 team will arrive in the town ahead of two matches against the Czechs in a first for Latvian rugby league, which has never fielded a youth side at representative level.


The Latvians will be supported by consultant Steve Leonard, the head of St Helens’ youth development department, and an increasingly impressed observer of the Latvian federation. Two weeks ago Leonard spent a few days in Riga observing a number of camps organised by the LRL.


“I was really impressed with the set-up of rugby league in Latvia and with the talent on show, especially within the U18 group,” commented Leonard, who flies to Prague on Friday to observe the Czech association delivering their Level 1 course.


“It is only with quality time together that squads bond and improve, and opportunities like the trip to the Czech Republic are immeasurable in this process. I believe that the games will be a great bench mark for future development in the Latvian plan, but the lessons learned and the experience will be the legacy of their time in Vrchlabi.”


One of those who has received mentoring and training, Czech coach David Lahr, has been sidelined with a knee injury sustained at the Pardubice 9s a week ago and will pass over the U18s’ reins to Darek Blatak and team manager Tomas Douda.


CZRLA development manager Andy Mulhall is keen to see what both sides have to offer.


“Some very talented [Czech] players who are already on the verge of senior national team selection will be playing,” he said


“Despite the fact that the vast majority of the Czech youth team are rookies to the sport, all are looking forward to testing themselves against players from other nations.”


Three Maltese, three Swedish and two new Czech coach tutor trainees will all attend the four-day seminar, with the Swedish contingent staying to observe the first Czech v Latvia youth match on Monday 4 August.

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The head of St Helens’ youth system, Steve Leonard, has been a keen observer of the latest strand of the joint RLIF-RLEF-EU Leadership Devolution Project, which has conducted its second Czech-based event, with coaching delegates from Malta, England and Sweden joining their Czech counterparts.


Leonard, who has been working with Latvia Rugby League on their youth structures, commented: “The whole experience has been tremendous. The energy and devotion to our game from the volunteers and staff is a credit to both the country they represent and the European Federation.”


“The future of our game, and more importantly the expansion of our game is in great hands with people of the quality of all the guys who delivered, assessed, or took their level 1 course. It was an absolute pleasure to be involved in.”


The project, which attracted €195.000 of support from the European Commission’s Sport Unit, will see the participating nations have access to trained and qualified technical educators and the ability to conduct their own training courses on completion.


RLEF Coaching Manager Martin Crick led the weekend, supported by Czech RL Association chief coach tutor David Lahr, which saw 15 new Czech coaches receive their Level 1 certificate led by new CZRLA coach tutor trainees Ladislav Cintler and Jaroslav Bzoch, who will finish their training in Sweden next year.


“What a great week,” enthused Swedish Rugby League delegate Ashley Brown. “A wealth of knowledge was passed on in highly efficient and well run seminars, it was a fantastic experience for everyone involved.”

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