The Ukrainian Super League kicks off on 25 March, with eight clubs playing in two groups of four, and the expectation is that this will be the most competitive domestic season yet.
The Group A clubs (in the west) are Sokil L`viv, Veres Rivne, Korzo Uzhgorod and RLC Mukachevo; while in Group B (east/central) Legion XIII Kharkiv, RLC Kyiv, Korabel Mykolaiv and Kyiv Rebels will face each other.
Legion XIII has won all eight Ukrainian championships to date, and five Ukrainian Cups, while Sokil has been the defeated finalist for the past two seasons. In the opening round of matches in Groupp B this year, Legion XIII will entertain Korabel, while in Group A, Veres will host Sokil.
“This season will certainly be the strongest in the history of Ukrainian rugby league,” enthused Gennadiy Vepryk, head coach of both RLC Legion XIII and the national team. “Most teams have recruited well, but we also had a good preparation period during the winter and we are ready to defend our title once more.”
RLC Kyiv promises to be Legion’s main group rival, having finished third in the league and runners-up in the cup last year. Their coach Evgen Zubryts`kyy is enthusiastic about his team’s prospects. “We had a great debut season last year and now we aim to be in contention,” he said.
Evgen Tarasenko, coach of RC Sokil, L`viv added, “For the last two years we have achieved second place in the Ukraine Super League, so this year we hope to become a champion side.”
The Ukrainian Federation of Rugby League has invested a lot of time in fostering relationships with municipal governments to gain use of high quality facilities such as the Rivne City Stadium, which attracted 1,500 fans for the visit of the Czech Republic in last year’s European Championship C.
“We really hope that this season all our teams will show improved form on the field and a better level of organisation on game day,” said UFRL president Artur Martyrosyan. “That is necessary for the continuing development of rugby league here. We are also in contact with European Super League clubs to propose twinning with Ukrainian clubs.”
All Ukrainian sport operates in the face of the ongoing difficulties that continue to beset the country: a tough economic situation and political instability in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. The latter was responsible for major disruption to the championship season, last year, when the bulk of the Donetsk team were drafted into the army to fight in the east, which prevented them from competing.