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Hi all, new series by ERL debuted last night called "5 Questions with ERL". We've interviewed heads of RL organizations all over the world to help get an insight into the dreams they have and the challenges they face. It's a weekly series. First interview is with Rugby League Ireland.



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5 Questions with ERL: Rugby League Ireland


We spoke with Richard from RLI recently about Rugby League in Ireland


1. Tell us a bit about your country?

Ireland is the only place where the sports fans have fans!! A great quote during the current soccer tournament and very true. In Ireland there are two jurisdictions, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and some sports are all Ireland bodies like RLI, and others have separate teams like soccer. The population is around 4 million but everyone in the world probably qualifies for Ireland under heritage rules due to the massive emigration over the years.


2. How long has RL been played in your country?

Rugby League has history as far back as the 1950s on record when games were played to showcase the sport however the real start of the sport is in 1989 when Brian Corrigan started the Dublin Blues. Brian had proposed a rugby league body in the 50's but got short shrift from the RFL when he approached them.

International activity started in earnest in 1995 with many top internationals from GB declaring under heritage rules and playing alongside local talent. The RLI organisation was started in 2000 and took on the baton from the RFL development structure.

It was 2013 before Sport Ireland (then Irish Sports Council) official recognised RLI as the National Governing Body despite 8 years of submissions for recognition. Sport Northern Ireland followed suit the following year.


3. What are you in most need to help the game grow?

The biggest challenge for RLI is that we are still fully volunteer based. We are the 49th sport in Ireland in terms of government funding. The main sports are Gaelic Football and hurling as well as soccer. The rugby union presence has grown significantly since professionalism and has spread beyond private schools to mainstream support.

There is a huge appetite for rugby league particularly in under age groups and having dedicated coaches and administrators would be the biggest difference. The RFL did provide development officers between 2008-2013 but ironically the funding stopped the same month the recognition was achieved and before then we were not able to deliver programmes in schools or colleges.

There is no doubt that with staff we could see great growth in the sport now that we have full recognition.


4. What's Biggest challenge that you face.

The greatest challenge is certainty around international fixtures at all levels. The international calendar has to be set for 4 years in the future to allow RLI to structure activity and partner with sponsors. At the moment the ad hoc nature means events are arranged at short notice and without structural support from the RLIF and that means we lack credibility even above our minority sport status. We have partnered last year and for the next 3 at least with McGettigan's who are a great Irish brand in hospitality and that gives us great stability and support. We have also created a base in Bray just south of Dublin and a home in The Carlisle Ground, home of Bray Wanderers football club. All this is a great help but we need a full international calendar from under age through to senior level to help us structure our activity and develop the sport.


5. What is your Dream scenario 10 years from now for your RL organisation?

RLI's dream is to have teams competing in Super League Europe and have the development structure from under age through to seniors underpinning this. The future revolves around the growth in underage activity. Two years ago we couldn't deliver activity in this area. Now we have 100 kids training on Saturday mornings in Belfast alone, and have teams at U16,18 and 19 facing each other and arranging internationals. If we can get the staffing to structure this right then this will allow stable growth.

Professional teams are also needed to show that players can go on to play rugby league professionally in Ireland. This needs an avenue into the League 1 structure first and we are knocking on that door. After that we need to see these teams progress to the top level.


Echoing the first point, the Irish fans are the best in the world. Regardless of sport, if someone is representing Ireland then the whole nation supports them as well as every member of the diaspora. Whether that's a team in Bray, or a team playing against the super league clubs, there will be a crowd.


Thanks for talking with us Richard.


Follow Rugby League Ireland below

Website: http://www.rli.ie/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rugbyleagueireland/?fref=ts

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Love the concept! Some really interesting stuff straight from the horse's mouth.

Good to see they have ambitions of a League 1 club, would be a good building block & hopefully prompt more government funding for RLI.

Another great point about internationals, another reason we need a set in stone structure, with fixures organised well in advance.

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A good read, and I look forward to more.

"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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Love the concept! Some really interesting stuff straight from the horse's mouth.

Good to see they have ambitions of a League 1 club, would be a good building block & hopefully prompt more government funding for RLI.

Another great point about internationals, another reason we need a set in stone structure, with fixures organised well in advance.

Thanks guys. We have created this series to help bring exposure to both the great work these nations are doing and also the challenges that they face

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5 Questions with ERL: Malta Rugby League (MRL)


We spoke with David from MRL recently about Rugby League in Malta.


How long has RL been played in your country?

Since 2005. The MRLA staged the first ever game of Rugby League on Maltese soil with a friendly international against the England Lionhearts at Marsa’s Matthew Micallef St John Athletic Stadium.

Local Rugby Union prop Robert Bonavia from the Qormi Sharks RFC was selected as the fourth reserve and played a notable part in the match as well as becoming the first Maltese born and bred player to represent the Malta Knights.
Bonavia played 25 minutes on a warm afternoon, most of the crowd cheering on the pioneer in an unknown code of rugby to the delight of local media.

The Malta Knights, whose squad was made up of Australian-Maltese players and officials, won 36-6 with a crowd of 500 people in attendance and Super League referee Mr Ashley Klein; later a referee in the NRL, was appointed as referee for the historic fixture.

Domestic Championships have been played since 2008. With local team numbers variable from 2 to 5 participating each year.

There are 3 teams in the current 2016 Domestic Championship (Stompers Rugby League, Gladiators Rugby League and Malta Origin Rugby League).


Tell us a bit about your country?

Malta is a southern European country consisting of 3 main islands (Malta, Gozo, and Comino) in the Mediterranean Sea with a population of circa 420, 000. It lies 80 km south of Sicily and 333 km north of Libya. Malta’s landmass covers just over 316 km2 making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital city is Valletta.

The two official languages are Maltese and English. Throughout history a succession of powers ruled the islands (including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St John, French and the British).

Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the euro zone, and 98% of the population is Catholic.

After World War II, between 1948 and 1967, some 140,000 people (over 30% of the total population) emigrated from Malta on the assisted passage scheme.

58% of this exodus migrated to Australia, 22% to the UK, 13% to Canada and 7% to the United States.

In 2004, descendants of these immigrants to Australia (Second Generation Maltese) whom grew up in the Rugby League heartland of Western Sydney formed the Sydney based Maltese Rugby League Association. The following year, they introduced the game to their Mother country via an exhibition match against the England Lionhearts. This historical event paved the way for the sport to blossom in the Maltese archipelago.

Malta is a favoured tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most prominently the Megalithic Temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.


What are you in most need to help the game grow?

Appropriate facilities – We do not have equal access to grass pitches with regulation goalposts as Rugby Union do.

The organisation has access to three venues, on the main island of Malta, which are Synthetic Surfaced Football Grounds. i.e: Melita FC located in Pembroke and the Balzan FC in Balzan-Lija.

Gozo Stadium in Xewkija is also available on the sister island of Gozo.

Collectively they do not satisfy the entire needs of the organisation as they do not contain regulation Rugby League goalposts. There is currently no solution to this.

We have recently hosted several of our Internationals overseas due to the lack of suitable facilities.


What are the biggest challenge that you face?

Achieving RLIF Full Membership. (The current criteria does not look at Malta’s unique situation constructively. There has not been a satisfactory dialogue received from RLIF on this matter).

Player numbers - The demographic profile of the organisation has shifted over the years. A significant proportion of the islands player pool is from a private school-university background. They tend to play Rugby Union and some are not encouraged to participate in Rugby League by their RU clubs. As a result, available numbers fluctuate leading to the postponement of matches, and in some instances, entire seasons.

Sabotage - The organisation continues to experience a certain degree of interference by Influential personalities from other sporting and opinionated organisations.


What is your dream scenario 10 years from now for your RL organisation?

• To be a well-managed, financially secure and respected organisation that provides opportunities to participate in rugby league. To continue to recruit the correct skill sets that enable us to deliver comprehensive training, coaching and development programs.

• Continue to grow a strong playing base (domestically and internationally).

• Continue to climb the RLIF World Rankings with the intention to play at least 3 internationals per season.

• To offer an encouraging environment where sportsmanship, personal development and enjoyment of the game are central themes. Off the field we afford an inclusive, social atmosphere built on family values.

• Support for our people is paramount. We endeavour to provide an environment that supports and encourages our coaches, administrators and volunteers.


Thanks for speaking with us David.


Malta FB: https://www.facebook.com/MALTARL/?fref=ts
Malta Website: http://www.malteserugbyleague.com/




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Fascinating stuff - thanks!

"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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Cook Islands


We spoke with Charles Carlson from Cook Islands Rugby League about RL in the Cook Islands


1. Tell us a bit about your country...

Cook Islands won the Emerging Nations in 1995 and played in the Rugby League World Cup 2000 and again in the Rugby League World Cup 2013. This is a big achievement for such a very tiny island from the Pacific with a population of 20,000. Many of our players are now coming through the NRL system and we have players playing in the Super League competition. Unfortunately our season is very short because of a small population.

February to May is Rugby League season, June to September is Rugby Union season , Sept to Dec is Soccer season and are all pretty much the same players participating. Then we have touch in summer Dec to Feb.


2. How long has RL been played in your country

Cook Islands Rugby League was formally launched in 1979 between a town vs. Country team. It has now grown to 7 clubs with grades from U12, U14, U16, U19, Premier Reserve and Premiers. Rugby League Masters was introduced in 2009 and is now very popular among retired players. It is also the most dominant code in the Cook Islands which was once a rugby union dominated island nation


3. What are you in most need to help the game grow?

Proper accredited training for coaches, referees and managers


4. What is the Biggest challenge that you face?

Getting volunteers to assist with the development of the game among the junior grades and primary schools.


5.What is your Dream scenario 10 years from now for your RL organisation?

To participate in the Rugby League World Cup 2021 onwards and remain a force to be reckon with at an international level.


Thanks for speaking with us Charles

Cook Islands FB: https://www.facebook.com/CookIslandsRugbyLeague/?fref=ts


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Love this! Good stuff!

Nottingham Outlaws Rugby League

Harry Jepson Winners 2008

RLC Midlands Premier Champions 2006 & 2008

East Midlands Challenge Cup Winners 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008

Rotterdam International 9's Cup Winners 2005

RLC North Midlands Champions 2003 & 2004

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It's such a shame that the Kukis didn't qualify for 2017. I really think that all of the South Pacific islands should have been given automatic qualification for this particular tournament given its location.

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5 Questions with ERL: Canada Rugby League

We spoke with Paul O'Keefe from CRL recently about Rugby League in Canada.

•Tell us a bit about your country

Canada loves sports in general but there is only one major sport and that's Ice Hockey! Rugby Union has been played for approximately 150 years but just can't seem to get enough success to move it into the next top sports category. Due to our severe winter periods, especially in Toronto & the east, we have challenges finding affordable fields to practice & play on. Vancouver in Western Canada has better weather year round which helps us grow the sport naturally.

•How long has Rugby League been played in Canada?

Canada has only really been playing regular organized Rugby League for 7 years. Starting in Toronto, Ontario before British Columbia started two years later. Alberta is the last Province to start playing and that has been going for three years now.

•What are you in most need to help the game grow?

Like every emerging nation, we are cash poor & are restricted by our financial position. We have done a fantastic job off the field to achieve the many things that we have managed to do. I am sure nobody would believe how small a bank account we work from. We receive ZERO funding from any governments in Canada so a key to our future would be getting government recognition for our sport. Obviously the RLIF can't afford to just continually hand out money to emerging nations like us as their only real revenue stream is the World Cup that only gets played every four years! CRLA continue to voice our opinion that there is an opportunity for a World Rugby League 9s tournament each year! If the RLIF move forward with this idea they would then have 5 tournaments every 4 years to draw their finances from instead of one!

• What is the biggest challenge that you face?

With no funding from anyone you have real challenges every day with the lack of facilities & equipment. We have some very talented athletes who could really help us climb the RLIF rankings!

•What is your dream scenario 10 years from now for Canada Rugby League?

Our first born & bred Canadian playing in the NRL! Hopefully a partnership with an airline would allows us to travel more and give our players stronger opposition to play against & enjoy further experience. RLIF negotiates excellent new media contract & we see huge crowds for World 9s annual tournaments! RLIF in a position to fund developing Nations. Canada to host one of these World 9s tournaments at BC Place in Vancouver! Rugby League being played in every Province of Canada. CRLA & Canada Touch reaps the rewards of their partnership by having a Steeden football in the hands of very young school children and see National competitions commence. Canada to participate at the 2021 RLWC and produce the upset of the Rugby League World Cup by defeating one of the top 4 Nations! It never hurts to dream!

Thanks for talking with us Paul

Keep up to date with Rugby League in Canada below:

WEB: http://www.canadarugbyleague.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/canadarugbyleague/?fref=ts


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Just found this thread and a great read.

So interesting to hear from real enthusiasts about their hopes for the future and a perfect antidote to some of the moaners you find on Facebook.

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It's such a shame that the Kukis didn't qualify for 2017. I really think that all of the South Pacific islands should have been given automatic qualification for this particular tournament given its location.


It's not a country that offers a lot of potential growth though is it? They're always going to be pretty much fully reliant on heritage players so I'm not sure why they should be getting in ahead of any other countries.

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5 Questions with ERL: Serbia Rugby League

We spoke with Slobodan Manak from the SRLF recently about rugby league in Serbia.

Tell us a bit about your country?

Serbia is very beautiful country in the middle of Balkans. It has population of around 8 milion people but is very succesful in many sports especially team sports. People here are recognised as a very good hosts and are welcoming. Because Serbia is on the crossroads of the east and west here is a place where cultures from both meat and make a good mixture. Our women are known for their beauty and our food is very delicious. Belgrade is a capital (around 2 mil. inhabitants) and it is well known for its night life esspecialy during the summer when night life go down to the rivers (Belgrade is located on the confluence of Sava into Danube river) but beside that it has a very rich history and there are many things that you can see here as Kalemegdan fotress, Ada lake (Belgrade's sea), Skadarlija (famous vintage street), etc. Serbia has also two very big music worldwide known music festivals Exit (no. 1 in Europe, in Novi Sad) and Gucha Trumpet Festival. Some of the famous Serbian people are: Nikola Tesla (scientist), Novak Djokovic (tennis player), Nemanja Vidic (soccer player), Milosh Teodosic (basketball player), etc.

How long has RL been played in your country?

Serbia is a rare country that has origins of RL being played in 50s of XX century. It was played from 1953 until 1964 when RL was forbidden from playing by political connections by RU. From 1964 until 2001 there wasn't any RL in Serbia. But from 2001 we still play RL. I think that is also important to mention that from 2001 until 2006 we played both RU and RL but from 2006 we separated from RU and started playing only RL with 4 teams.We now have around 12-16 clubs active clubs some more some less.

What are you in most need to help the game grow?

Two things:

1. Infrastructure (RL venues for both training and games)

2. We need human resources as vollunteers (club managers, expirienced RL coaches, match officials, promoters, etc).

We rent (soccer) venues and fields for both games and training sessions and we give awful alot of money for that and we don't have any guarantees that we can stay on this venues on a long run. If they want they can forbid us to play at any moment.

We also have grown probably to much to be maintained by small number of people. Unfortunately we don't have enough money to pay more people to work in our organisation. We have only 1 employee in SRLF and all others are vollunteers. All club coaches are vollunteers also and players are amateurs.

What is the Biggest chalenge that you face?

How to make more players esspecially youth. Every year is a struggle because we don't have consistency in terms of venues for training sessions and adjusting free time of coaches to schedule of players. Most of the players are working and playing, others go to school and travel on training sessions for an hour. Rugby League is very serious sport maybe one of the hardest to play and we want to bring Serbian Rugby League on a higher level but we now have a very huge difference between players. We are happy that we can say that our competition is no longer one sided but we have 3 relatively equal teams competing for the Championship title but it is very hard to bring others to their level so we need club managers and expirienced coaches.

What is your Dream scenario 10 years from now for your RL organisation?

We dream to compete in every Rugby League World Cup from 2017 onwards. We want to have semi-pro competition of 6-8 relatively equal teams in First grade Serbian RL Championship. With our own venues at least one but we want to have 3-5 (2-3 in Belgrade, 1 in Novi Sad and 1 in Nish). We dream of 20 active clubs all over Serbia with teams from U12 up to seniors for each club.

Thanks for speaking with us Solbodan

Keep up-to-date with their progress below:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/ragbiligars-Serbian-Rugby-League-Federation-114955005196655/?fref=ts

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5 Questions with ERL: Czech Rugby League


We spoke with Jaroslav Bzoch from CRL recently about Rugby League in the Czech Republic.

• Tell us a bit about your country


Czech Republic is quite a small country in the middle of Europe with about 10 million people and long history. Many people still remember when we used to be Czechoslovakia but on 1st January 1993 there were two different countries, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. We are divided in 14 regions which are about 3 parts Czech, Moravia and Silesia. In many areas you can find beautiful nature and mountains. When it comes to sports we have many good sportsmen in all different areas but the best in Ice Hockey.


• How long has RL been played in your country?

Rugby League in CZ is still really young sport. The first game was played in 2006 when thanks to an international union player by the name of Milan Mrtynek, who had enough of union environment, the Czech Rugby League Association was established. In the same year we played our first international games against Netherlands and Serbia. Since that year we’ve started with a domestic competition where we had 4 teams: Beroun, Prague, Pardubice and Vrchlabi. There was big boom in 2011 when we established 5 more teams along with a second division. All these teams were seniors at the time and we started to get RL better known in our country. At the moment we have 1 domestic competition consisting of Krupka, Hradec Kralove, Havlickuv Brod, Chrudim, Beroun, Vrchlabi and Mikulov where teams play home and away games with a short playoff at the end of the season. We also have a 2nd division with teams Hodonin, Pardubice and Prague. This year is also a first for our juniors U18 competition where we have 4 teams at the moment.


• What are you in most need to help the game grow?

We have to find new and young players. We need to work more with schools and also try to established new teams in all regions and bigger cities. We have to spread information and the beauty of RL across Czech Republic.


• What is the Biggest challenge that you face?

As we are not a very well known sport and we are in big competition with the other popular sports (such ice hockey, soccer, basketball and many others) we are facing a challenge to get new players and sponsors. This means that people often don’t know about us.


• What is your Dream scenario 10 years from now for your RL organisation?

My dream as a president of CZRLA is to be part of the Rugby League World Cup qualifiers and have at least 12 teams in senior and juniors competition. Also to have RL (or at least RL touch) played at high schools in every region.


Thanks for speaking with us Jarda


Follow their progress below:

Website: http://www.rugbyleague.cz/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/czech.rugby.league/?fref=ts

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Latin Heat


5 Questions with ERL: Latin Heat - Rugby League AU

We spoke with Robert Burgin recently about Latin Heat Rugby League

Tell us a bit about your organisation...


The Latin Heat is a rugby league team formed to provide the 600 million people of Latin America a presence in international rugby league – and to develop those interested in learning the game.

To qualify for the team players must have heritage or long-term residency links to any of the mainland countries from Mexico in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south, plus the Hispanic nations of the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic).


How long have the heat been playing RL?

We’ve been giving South and Central Americans a chance to represent their heritage on an international stage since 2013. Prior to this, it had been roughly a decade since the last fixtures featuring a Latino team – a two-game series between Argentina and Australian Police. We knew of a few players with heritage in South and Central America who had no pathway to represent at a higher level and formed a composite side of 24 nations as a result. Now we’re at the stage where countries are forming their own individual identities, which is fantastic, but our strength is still in unity.


What are you in most need of to help grow the game?

A broadcast television deal on Fox Sports Latin America, more coaching, administrative and promotional materials for the game in Spanish and Portuguese, the attention of NRL clubs for the huge merchandising and talent sourcing possibilities of opening the game to Spanish speakers everywhere, A sponsor who can assist in flights for players from South America to Australia and vice-versa, Supporters of the game to buy jerseys from our online Goodsie store (it’s one of the main ways we fund games and equipment)


What are the biggest challenges you face?

Geographical distance, the unfamiliarity with the rules and the icons of the game, the low wages of most of the countries we represent, the language barrier, being known in the wider public.


What is your dream scenario 10 years from now?

That South and Central America will have a rugby league tournament similar to the Copa America and several of the teams will be pushing the other Americas teams in qualifying for the World Cup. On a humanitarian level, we want to open the doors for greater mutual appreciation of Pacific and Latino cultures, and allow people to experience more life opportunities via our exciting sport, whether that be as a means to education, safety for their family, career pathways etc.

Thank for speaking to us Robert


Follow their progress below:

Website: http://www.latinheatrl.com/

Aus FB: https://www.facebook.com/LatinAmericanRugbyLeague/

US FB: https://www.facebook.com/LatinHeatRugbyLeagueUsa/

Mexico FB: https://www.facebook.com/latinheatmexico/?fref=ts


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This is brilliant stuff and I wish I'd noticed it earlier.


Thanks Oxford. We've had a great response from various organisations around the world. It's a series with a lot of potential. We want to get as many people involved as we can over the next year or two with this series. Players, fans, administrators etc. RL is a community and we're happy to be doing our part to hopefully bring up all together.

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It is great to get a bit of info from the actual people sowing the seeds in unexpected places.

"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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5 Questions with ERL: Abraham Papalii

We spoke with Sydney Roosters player Abraham Papalii recently.

Abraham Papalii arrived in Bondi back in 2015 following an impressive U20s career with the New Zealand Warriors. His junior club was the Glenora Bears

Standing at almost two metres tall at just 23 years of age, Papalii is a wide-running and skillful backrower that is no easy man to stop for any defender.

1. Who was your idol while you were growing up?

I idolized the All Blacks team back in the day. Carlos Spencer, Luke Mcalister, Doug Howlett and Jerry Collins were my favourite players.

2. You came through the Warriors U20s ranks and are currently in the Roosters system. With players like Omar Slaimankhel and even Suaia Matagi there for a while did this make it easier for you to fit in?

I was at the Roosters before those guys but I had Kiwi boys like Siua Taukeiaho and Isaac Liu there who made it easier for me. It was then good for Omar and Suaia to come in. We pretty much had that Kiwi group which gave you that sorta 'bro' environment like how it is back home.

3. You were born in born in Auckland but are of American Samoan decent as far as we're aware. Would you consider turning out for the USA Hawks at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup if they approached you?

It's funny you ask that. I actually thought I was and I got a call from the USA hawks coach himself about playing at the 2013 World Cup. I told him I had a grandma with some American Samoan background. I went home and asked Mum and Dad and they said that I actually don't. So that dream was shattered.

4. What are your thoughts on the current state of International Rugby League and what do you think can be done to improve it?

Well I haven't played any International league yet, but maybe they could put more money into the programs for the Pacific Island teams to help out more or even get a few games/comps going in the Islands to motivate the Islanders and even give an opportunity for them to succeed from home instead of having to move away.

5. What is your most memorable moment in your Rugby League career so far?

Making my first grade debut for the Roosters this year.

Thanks for talking to us Abraham. We wish you all the best

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Wales RL CEO Chris Thair

We found this interview quite special. The insight and detail provided was incredibly intriguing and we can't thank Chris enough. Feel free to share on other forums if you like. We currently only have a representation on this forum due to the respect we hold for Total RL and what they do for the British game.

5 Questions with ERL: Wales Rugby League - Rygbi Cynghrair Cymru

We spoke with Chris Thair from WRL recently about rugby league in Wales, what their goals are and where they're heading.

1. Tell us a bit about your country

Wales is a mighty proud small Celtic nation sitting to the East of England on the map and a country of 3 million people which is also part of the UK and Great Britain. With a green and mountainous landscape the majority of the population reside in the northern or southern edges of the country. The Welsh people are renowned for their passion and humour. Many famous Welsh people have reached the top of their global profession, these include footballers Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale, poet Dylan Thomas, author Roald Dahl, singers Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey and actor Anthony Hopkins

The Welsh flag with the famous red dragon is the most prominent form of symbolism however the Prince of Wales Feathers (aka 3 feathers) is also a symbol of great pride as it appears on the jersey of both codes of rugby. Rugby Union is seen as a symbol of Welsh identity and an expression of national consciousness. In Wales, union’s roots are embedded in working class mining communities and very much differs to the sports origins in England, this certainly adds to the rivalry.

2. How long has RL been played in your country?

Since the very start of rugby league’s formation in 1895 Welsh rugby union players have been signed by English clubs and ‘gone North’ to play professionally in the other code. Indeed many of the sports greatest ever stars have been Welsh, reflected in Gus Risman and Billy Boston, both from Cardiff being two of the five players on the new Rugby League statue recently unveiled outside Wembley Stadium.

Welsh players have always signed in sufficient numbers for professional clubs, for Wales to have a very competitive international team. Wales played the sport’s first ever international under Northern Union rules in January 1908 defeating the New Zealand All Golds 9-8 in Aberdare, South Wales and have played many internationals since. Winners of 7 European Cups and semi finalists in 2 World Cups, the country has an illustrious past.

Domestically in Wales the sports growth has been sporadic, only achieving any sustained continuity in the last 15 years since the formation of the Welsh Conference in 2003. This domestic club competition was born out of two recently formed Welsh clubs that played in English competition (Cardiff formed 2001 and Swansea 2002), ex pro’s who had moved back home and enthusiasts from university rugby league which had been played in Wales from the 1980s. Champions of the 2016 Welsh Conference, Bridgend Blue Bulls RLFC, have won nine of the 14 championships to become the most successful community club ever in Wales.

Two welsh clubs joined the Northern Union in 1907 and by 1908 there were sufficient numbers for a separate Welsh league however by 1910 this had folded. This failed attempt to establish the sport in Wales is reflected in very similar stories from the 1920s, 40s, 50s and 80s, a short burst of success and then nothing. Apart from the Welsh universities and one men’s team in North Wales, the sad realisation was that during those magical moments in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup semi final where Wales nearly beat the mighty Australia, domestically there was very little rugby league being played in Wales. The RFL recognised this and invested in growing the sport in Wales by employing a fulltime Development Officer. Since this point rugby league in Wales has been growing and in 2006 ‘Wales Rugby League’ was officially recognised by the Welsh Sports Council as the official National Governing Body and went on to become full members of the RLIF and RLEF. At present around 6000 people play annually in Wales, 1500 with clubs and over 5000 in schools. Wales also has two professional rugby league clubs in the European competition ran by the RFL.

3. What are you most in need of the help the game grow?

We are most in need of investment, a home, an agreed long term international calendar for the sport and good governance; and probably in that order.

In life you tend to get out of things what you put in. Good levels of investment allows for the resources and systems to be put in place which would ensure the sport grows. The sport in Wales is living proof of this however in recent years we have been operating under lowering levels of grant aid. This is similar to everybody else in and outside of sport in this time of economic austerity so we have adapted and just worked smarter with what we have. We are now a lot more commercially focused, underpinned by strong levels of governance and financial management.

No rugby league entity in Wales such as WRL or a club owns or runs their own facility. Hundreds of different facilities throughout Wales have been used over the last 15 years and many clubs, professional and community, have continued to move grounds. This has not helped the sports growth and not allowed long term partnerships to develop in communities. The sport needs to change this nomadic existence and WRL and its clubs are aware of this challenge. The clubs are now thinking long term trying to source assets, and so are we as a National Governing Body. WRL ran 17 representative teams last year and numerous courses, meetings, festivals and finals. If WRL became primary tenants on a facility which could also play host to a community and a professional club then there would be sufficient activity to make such a venture work. More importantly it would allow the sport to establish some deep roots in a community and some long term partnerships.

Outside of each nations control, there are two fundamental things which will ensure the international game continues to grow; A successful 2017 Rugby League World Cup and establishing an agreed long term international calendar of events. From this everything will cascade down beginning with broadcast deals, sponsorship and a much improved environment for each nation to operate under.

I mention good governance last on the list as I feel we currently have this at Wales Rugby League and if we didn’t it would be much higher up on the list of what we need. If people go to the Wales Rugby League website and click on “about us” and then “governance” you will see through the annual reports and other documents that we are now doing well in this area. Good governance is essential and is the self responsibility every organisation should take. Personally I feel it is the sports biggest downfall and has been the most detrimental factor to its growth.

Regardless of competition structure how much stronger would the sport be in the UK if no club in the last 30 years had entered an insolvency event and been managed in a responsible manner.

Wales Rugby League was no better and was certainly insolvent on paper when I came into post in May 2013 as it had six figures worth of debt and an unsustainable operation. A lot of great work also took place before 2013 however it was quickly undone by poor governance and financial mismanagement.

When organisations get into such a mess, it takes years to recover and growth is stifled. I’m extremely proud of our record since this point of insolvency in 2013 however I would rather these things weren’t required. The sport in Wales would be much better off now if the time and energy put into the change process was put into other areas however there’s been no other choice. We still have much to do however have plans and a solid foundation from which to build. Since 2013 we have posted annual reports and accounts showing 3 years of profits, participated in a World Cup, set a new attendance record for the national team, won a European Cup, a Wheelchair Celtic Cup, run 17 representative teams, saved the two Welsh professional clubs - taking over one for two seasons, breaking the clubs all time attendance record during this time and providing a large loan to the other – run domestic school and club competitions, courses and established some financial reserves for the first time ever. There is a lot of good work to build upon and optimism for the future!

4. What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Acquiring investment, the fragility of the clubs and progression planning are probably the three biggest challenges we face.

Qualifying later this year for the 2017 World Cup would be catalyst for new investment, indeed offers are already on the table for when we do however we could be smarter elsewhere. Registration fees and membership schemes are all planned for the future however the biggest thing would be to turn the men’s international programme into a profit centre. Good levels of sponsorship and gate receipts from an international would ensure that programme is paid for in full and the surplus could be invested elsewhere in the business i.e. community game and junior pathway. At present that is not the case however the cash reserves could ensure a home international takes place in 2018 which is a game changer.

The fragility of the clubs is something we are trying to change. The two professional clubs are now under solid management and we are working with the community clubs to ensure they get more depth and quality to their operations. When coming into post no club in Wales operated with more three teams and many with just one team. We have worked on this in recent years and a lot more is planned.

Progression planning is a challenge to any business however it is more of an issue when you are a small. Many clubs are linked to one or two key individuals and it is similar at the NGB. I feel we are becoming more attractive as a sport, which helps and we have spoken to many clubs about this subject. Getting that key individual to mentor others instead of doing it all themselves. Progression planning is a challenge that will never go away.

5. What is your dream scenario 10 years from now?

In 2026 following WRL putting four teams in the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, a men’s, women’s, students and wheelchair team, the domestic club league shown weekly on S4C reaches new levels of participation, exposure and sponsorship following Wales reaching the previous year’s World Cup Final.

One of the three professional clubs in Wales is in Super League and the other two are packed full of Welsh talent coming through the system.

Following regular attendances over 10,000 for internationals in recent years, a near capacity crowd in 2024 at the Cardiff City FC Stadium and a successful 2025 World Cup; WRL take their first home international of 2026 to the Millennium Stadium.

At WRL’s new permanent home in South Wales there is a feeling true optimism over the future and 10,000 people are signed up WRL members along to join the ride. WRL engage over 100,000 more people on a weekly basis through fun, thought provoking and action packed social media and video content; a handful of which have gone viral and reached over a million.

Following the long term partnership with Wales Rugby League, over half of the Super League clubs have Welsh talent as regulars in their first team.

Thanks for speaking with us Chris, all the best

Follow WRL's progress below:

Website: http://www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WalesRugbyLeague/?fref=ts

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That's an excellent read!

"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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The WRL have been doing a fantastic job in recent years. Although I have to make the correction that Wales sits to the west of England not the east!!!!

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5 Questions with ERL: Confederacion Argentina de Rugby League

We spoke with Carlos Verela from the C.A.R.L about rugby league in Argentina and what their goals are.

1. Tell us a little about your country

Argentina has a large youth population who are essential to our country. Young people are open to and keen to learn new experiences. The youth is very important to establishing Rugby League in Argentina.

2. How long has RL has played in your country?

In 2005 a game was played for the first time of Rugby XIII with an Australian police representative. At the end of 2014 we made contact with Australia, a leading RL country. After several conversations we took the initiative to venture into Latin America and especially in Argentina again. This is how Latin Heat outlined a strategy of introducing Rugby League in a way to capture young people so that they can practice Rugby League and have personal growth from the support that this sport can offer.

Argentina, as part of Latin America, is also in the plans the Latin Hear. This is partly because it is seem as a country with young people with very special characteristics for playing competitive sports, such as intelligence, creativity and versatility essential for Rugby League. Today 20/22 players participate and know the rules of the game but the lack of competition makes development very slow. Unfortunately this causes them to abandon playing Rugby League switch over to Rugby Union.

3. What are you in the greatest need of help grow the game?

Two things are greatly needed to develop Rugby League in Argentina.

The first is awareness. This is based on promotion and mass media in Argentina but today there is no media to transmit or mention the sport of Rugby League. The contacts that we’ve made so far have not had the desired results. Sports TV channels (Fox, ESPN, TYC) only transmit widely followed sport and not developing sports. It would be good to see a channel for development sports to help increase the knowledge of Rugby League. This would speed up development and its awareness amongst youth.

The second thing we are in need of are sponsors. We could aim to increase the presence of potential sponsors brand with all sporting events having a good uptake of spectators. In Argentina, you mostly have to settle for small businesses or family businesses that contribute for the good of youth but their participation is very limited and this is not enough to cover costs.

In short this is our greatest need, without funding it is almost impossible to have sustainable development long term.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face?

Rugby League in the Argentina is virtually unknown. It is loosely know as a similar sport to Rugby Union played in Australia but not known how to play here in Argentina.

Today there is great opportunity for the sport of Rugby League to take up in Argentina. Rugby Union has growth problems because the parents of the players fear for injuries. Lately many Union players have suffered injuries in the fixed and mobile formations and only practice it until 13 / 15 years of age. These formations are controlled but as they grow these game situations become more physical and therefore riskier.

In short, if we could tap into this potential youth with the benefits of Rugby League quickly I think we would have a stable competition.

5. What is your dream scenario 10 years from now for your RL organization?

This question has two scenarios. One with the current limitations written above and the other with the necessary support for their development.

The big push and support provided to us Robert Burgin of LHAU (Latin Heat), their contribution to clothing and equipment for practice and the encouragement we receive daily is an important addition to keep this initiative alive. In saying this, we are from Argentina and cannot take on full cooperation as we should because we are not known and have very few resources.

Another would be the situation if we could have a promotional base from which we can project ourselves; the youth who are looking for a less risky, more attractive show of rugby that they can find in Rugby League. We would love to have a local competition formed which would create an increase in participation levels with a view to participate in events on an international level ensuring a solid introduction of Rugby League in Argentina.

Thanks for speaking with us Carlos, all the best.

Follow their progess below:


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