Newcomers to the NRLB Championship, Harderwijk Dolphins, will face defending champions Rotterdam Pitbulls this weekend, in the opening match of the Netherlands season, while in the other match to open proceedings, Amsterdam Cobras will play host to the Den Haag Knights.
This season teams will meet each other home and away for the Minor Premiership, with the top two then contesting the Championship title, and the others battling for third place in a double-header Grand Final in Rotterdam on Saturday 10th June.
At the season launch, NRLB development officer Jason Bruygoms, who is also player/coach for Rotterdam Pitbulls, said, “After an undefeated season in 2016, our main focus this year is to retain our title, so with more challenges ahead than last year we have a lot of work to do.”
Lou Benders of the Amsterdam Cobras commented: “Having trained all year round and played winter games, which were lots of fun, the guys have grown and improved as a team. We also have some fresh new talent. So now, with a steady base of league-only players, we can hopefully compete for a place in the top two.”
“We are really eager to get started,” noted Adam Bakker of Harderwijk Dolphins. “We may not have the same experience or size yet, as the other teams, but we want to show competitiveness, or passion, and the great team spirit of our fit, fast players. Our ambition is to end up no lower than third in the competition, and to be sure at the end that every opponent had to give their very best to beat us.”
The Den Haag Knights are looking to set up a members scheme, with the aim of making them the best supported club in the country. Stalwart Ian Thompson commented: “With two Grand Final defeats behind us in three years, our club is aiming to go one better in 2017.”
“The Nederlandse Rugby League Bond is very excited about the upcoming season,” said NRLB chairman Thijs van der Zouwen.
“We will have more games than ever before. And it promises to be close, with Amsterdam and Harderwijk both making progress in the off-season and ready to take on the traditional strongholds of Rotterdam and The Hague.”