The NRLB (Nederlandse Rugby League Bond) has celebrated its busiest season in their 15-year association with the Rugby League European Federation, including an expanded representative calendar, youth programme and domestic championship, as well as elevation to voting membership status within the governing organization.
“As a governing body we made a conscious decision some time ago, that developing domestically was to be our main focus and goal,” said Development Director, Jason Bruygoms, who resurrected the Dutch governing body in 2009. “That has paid off, as we now boast a four-team domestic competition and two of those clubs now have active youth programmes running.
“We also have one or two more clubs wanting to start up and join the competition, and for the first time, the national squad finally celebrated victories, first in Germany and then at home to Sweden.”
Holland first entered the sport in 1989 when they participated in the Student World Cup in England, but since the creation of the NRLB (which became an RLEF Observer in February 2012 and an Affiliate Member in June) there has been a more coherent development path. Kane Krlic, who this year returned to Holland after a stint working with the Rugby Football League in England, has added his expertise to the technical side whilst the NRLB has also put in place a plan to promote locally-produced coach and match official educators.
“With the sport growing,” Bruygoms went on, “we are at the point now where we have to start looking at expanding the season, so that it will no longer be played only in the summer months. Last year, during the winter, we got together on the third Saturday of each month and this is something we want to continue, offering players more games. For us to grow as a sport, we can no longer plan our season around other sports as this will simply hold our progress back.”
Genuine club and player development is something Bruygoms and the NRLB are particularly proud of. The Dutch championship now comprisees Den Haag Knights, Rotterdam Pitbulls (the current champions), Amsterdam Cobras, and the new club this year Hardewijk Dolphins.
“Seventy-five per cent of our clubs are no longer reliant on outside players,” Bruygoms noted. “That is very positive, with players opting for rugby league as their main sport. We need to cater for them in order to keep the momentum going.”