In just under two months time, a new rugby league competition will take North America by storm. A total of 14 clubs across the United States and Canada will take part in the inaugural North American Rugby League Competition over the summer. With that, 12 teams across the United States and two Canadian teams will vie for the chance to be crowned champions.
North America was originally granted hosting rights to the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, however, there is the potential to see the event shifted to France. The unique situation surrounding COVID-19 and the growth of an untapped sport in the United States has seen this competition rise from nowhere. As a competition rises, so does new rivalries that could engulf the sporting scene.
Here, we look at four major rivalries within the NARL that could set the scene for incredible derby days with packed stadiums and the atmosphere of an NFL game over the summer:
Brooklyn and New York– The I-87 Derby
The Brooklyn Kings are one of the oldest franchises in the competition, having previously competed in the USARL. The New York Freedom are a new team, based out of White Plains and they’ve set their sights on raising some eyebrows in the first season.
The Brooklyn/New York rivalry extends from the NBA with the potential to create a mass following in one of the largest metropolitan cities on Earth. In order to build the sport, these two teams have gone out and signed some massive names within the rugby league world to gain an upper edge on one another.
The Freedom have signed former USA Hawk and journeyman Mark Offerdahl, a legend amongst the US Rugby League community. Known as Captain America, Offerdahl has played across France, England and Australia. He earned plaudits on the world stage at the 2013 World Cup, as one of the Hawks best in a team that had an underdog run to the quarter-finals.
Not to be outdone, the Kings signed Eddy Pettybourne; a 200-plus veteran of the National Rugby League and United States International representative in two World Cups. Pettybourne, fueled by a desire to grow the game in the United States, was the first major signing for the competition. It makes for a mouth-watering battle when these two behemoths lock horns in New York.
Ottawa and Toronto– Oh, Canada
The history of the Toronto Wolfpack is storied, even for a team that has barely existed for half a decade. Toronto was able to take it to the best of the Super League, but a mixture of financial issues and COVID-19 saw the franchise kicked out of the top flight of UK Rugby League. The future was thrown into disarray, yet we see them coming back under different leadership and a reinvigorated fanbase who will come out in droves.
Ottawa was a product of the Toronto expansion, with the Aces pushing back their expansion into UK Rugby League in order to be a part of the inaugural season. Lamport Stadium is one of the premier locations to watch the sport in Canada, with a 10,000-seat stadium and the beer garden to bring in patrons from all over. Ottawa is based out of TD Place Stadium, with the potential to hold 24,000 spectators and create a fanbase that will love their team as they take on the best of the United States.
You either loved or hated the Wolfpack, which will see many fans within Canada support the Aces based on their feelings towards Toronto. On the other side, you will have the Toronto fans who will be thrilled with the chance to return to ‘The Den’. There are plenty of athletes who will want to get in on this opportunity to be trailblazers within the Canadian Rugby League, and this rivalry offers the chance to build upon the improvements over the last five years.
The USARL Three (Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta)- The Right Decision?
One thing that sets these three teams apart is that they have experience as a franchise in the USARL. The USARL was, and by affiliation still is, the top competition in the United States. Brooklyn, Boston and Atlanta all left that competition to participate in this new league, sending waves through the affiliated USARL competition as Brooklyn was the defending champions.
These three teams will have a target on their back, with the newer teams like Portland, Las Vegas and Washington DC wanting to take down the established franchises. All three former USARL teams are in the Eastern Conference, which will see Washington DC come up against these teams in the back-end of the season.
In a year that will see the experienced teams want to lead early and the newer teams chasing, you can expect that Brooklyn, Boston and Atlanta are looking to put the pressure on the newly formed sides. They have to prove that this change was the right decision and will have to prove that the move will benefit rugby league in America. If they can’t do that, there will be one franchise that will.
Cleveland vs. The Rest- The Pack Leader
Monte Gaddis has been a shining light over the last 18 months, sharing the game all over Cleveland and the country. His book, ABC’s of Rugby League, became a bestseller with children all over the United States learning the basics of rugby league. Cleveland has become the recognizable brand to many across the world of rugby league, associating Cleveland and Monte with the sport in America. In turn, that means that 13 other teams will want to take down Cleveland and make a name for themselves.
There is no discrediting the work that the franchise has done for the sport, however, these 13 teams will want to showcase what they can do at the expense of a team that has a 300-plus gamer in Glenn Morrison as their director. The brand has grown, with Cleveland attracting former football All-Americans to their workouts and trials. If everyone in Cleveland wants to jump on board, you can bet that the rest of the competition will want to take down the favorites to win this league.
It makes for this first season to be one for the books; a history-making year in North American rugby league under the guise of new competition. There is only one place that you can watch the start of this new competition, and it is live on Sportsflick. Using the code “NARL21”, you can get 10% off your first month. For all your updates on everything NARL, follow Sportsflick, the North American Rugby League and CKM Red Rugby League.