EurFed RLEF - League Overseas - General

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Palestine RL, based in Bethlem and formed in 2014, has been formally recognised by the country’s Olympic Committee.

PRL president, Rabie El Masri commented: “This is a significant development for us and will enable the organization to move forward. With our Observer membership of the Rugby League European Federation’s Middle East Africa region, I met The Palestine Olympic Committee in Ramallah and they were very helpful and supported us.

Currently there are two men’s clubs operating – Warriors and Eagles - and two women’s clubs in the process of being established – Brave Blossoms and Urcas - with international fixtures also planned for 2020.

Recognition by the Palestinian Olympic Committee means that another nation has been ratified for International Rugby League’s (IRL) aim of becoming a member of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), which would open up further funding streams.
 

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Greek League: RIP - THEODOROS ANANIAS. Former Rhodes Knights player lost his brave battle with cancer earlier today. Our deepest sympathies are with his family during their difficult time.
 

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Darren Fisher, head coach of Spain’s national men’s rugby league team, has stood down after close on six years in post, which has seen the sport make significant strides in the country.

Fisher took charge of Spain in their first-ever men’s international in 2014 – a 12-10 win over Belgium, led them to victory in 2015’s European Championship C and, last month, was one game away from qualifying them for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
 

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The Jamaica Rugby League Association launched the 2020 men’s season with the second annual New Year 9s. Eight community and intercollegiate teams took part in the tournament at the Duhaney Park Mini Stadium.

Following the group stages, Duhaney Park Red Sharks were crowned champions after defeating Caribbean Maritime University Spartans thanks to a sudden death field goal. Both teams were locked at 14-all at the end of regular time and neither could find the winner in golden point extra time, so it took drop kicks to separate them.

Marvin Thompson sealed it for the Red Sharks after Kareem Harris went agonizingly close for the Spartans.

Washington Bulls won the Trophy after Akel Johnson’s last-gasp try on full-time to defeat Duhaney Park Firestorm 14-12. Cedar Grove Cyclones defeated UWI Pelicans 24-14 to take the Bowl and St. Bess Sledgehammers claimed the Plate over Liguanea Dragons with a 20-12 victory.

JRLA Director of Rugby Romeo Monteith said: “Nines is now a permanent part of the rugby league calendar and this is one of three open men’s tournament that will form a circuit to identify Jamaica’s best players in the short version of the sport. It’s quick which suits our guys and will act as selection for the 2021 America’s 9’s Championship and we’ll hopefully qualify for the World Cup 9s in 2022. The other two instalments will be the Easter 9s on April 4th and we conclude with the Summer Nines on May 30th.”
 
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Today (26 January) sees the start of a President’s 9s tournament in Ghana involving four clubs, with the champions crowned in December. In a bid to welcome newcomers into the sport, the 9s will feature on the last Sunday of each month at Legon Rugby Field and involve existing sides; Bulls, Pirates, Panthers and Skolars.

The matches will also feature a revolutionary recycling initiative, “Keep Rugby League Clean” which will look at how to properly dispose of plastic waste by asking fans, players and individuals to come with their plastic as entry tickets in exchange for an instant prize. It will then be collected and bagged for Aqua Africa, a recycling company.

Emmanuel Akuklu, assistant manager of Rugby League Federation Ghana noted: “The competition will highlight the campaign against poor and improper sanitation in Ghana. We will use this year's games to add our voices. We need to keep our playing fields clean.”

The RLFG was revived earlier this year under the leadership of president Nana Prempeh which saw Ghana’s men’s national team, the Leopards, take third place in the MEA Championship with a play-off victory over Cameroon.

In addition, the University of Ghana held an inter-hall rugby league competition. Now, a university 9s involving UG, University of Cape Coast, Regional Maritime, Lancaster University and the University of Professional Studies will also begin in April 2020, with additional plans to also take rugby league into schools.
 

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Following their historic qualification for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, when Greece were forced to play matches away from home after a dispute over recognition of the official governing body, the signs are that rugby league is beginning to take root in Greece.

A number of domestic matches were also played in secret because of the political conflict but the sporting political landscape is changing.

Greece will play hosts England, Samoa and France in Group A of the forthcoming World Cup and the Association is confident that tensions are easing and rugby league will be openly played in Greece this year without any repercussions from the authorities.

GRLA president George Stilianos said: “We understand that there has been a change to the president of the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon (HFMP) which the government recognises as controlling rugby league, and their new general secretary confirmed the body has no interest in disrupting our activity here. This has yet to be confirmed in writing, however the signs are positive at this stage, so much so that we are planning on openly playing rugby league once again.
 

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MEN’S EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS TO EXPAND IN 2020

A record 16 teams will be part of the competition:

Euro A (6 teams): France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain.
Euro B (3 teams) Russia, Greece, Serbia
Euro C (3 teams): Ukraine, Germany, Norway
Euro D (4 teams): Malta, Czech Republic, Turkey, Netherlands

The draw will take place in Serbia on Friday evening (7pm, CET 8pm) for the expanded men’s 2020 European Championships, which will feature four levels of competition for the first time. In the senior Championship, holders France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be joined by Italy and, for the first time, Spain, with a final to be held - most likely in France, on 7 or 8th November - and relegation to European Championship B introduced.

The nations will be drawn into two groups of three, which will culminate with the group winners playing each other.

Dean Buchan, Spain RL’s CEO said: “It is genuinely exciting times for rugby league here. We have just seen the launch of our first professional club, the Valencian Hurricanes, have a new domestic league starting, and this international programme keeps that momentum growing. We proved in the recent World Cup qualifiers that we can compete and I believe that we will be capable of causing a major upset in the competition”.

FIRL vice president, Tiziano Franchini, added: “We are very proud to be involved in this prestigious and historic tournament. We will use it to prepare for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England and treat it with huge respect. We are delighted to be taking part”.

The draw, organised by the Red Star Sport Society Media Center, will be broadcast by CKM Red on the RLEF Facebook page, and be undertaken by the Serbian men’s and women’s national team captains, Stevan Stevanovic – a social media influencer with almost 100,000 Instagram followers - and Jelena Stojiljkovic.

Champions France and runners up Wales from the 2018 European Championship will be top seeds in pot 1 of the draw, Ireland and Scotland in pot 2, and Italy and Spain in pot 3.

For European Championship B, fixtures have already been agreed: 17/18 October – Serbia v Russia, 24/25 October – Greece v Serbia, 31st Oct/ 1st Nov – Russia v Greece.

Whilst in European C, there will be an open draw between Norway, Ukraine and Germany. In the inaugural European Championship D, an open draw will involve four nations: Netherlands, Czech Republic, debutants Turkey and Malta, with a final to be played in May/June 2022.

Rugby League European Federation general manager, Chris Thair, noted: “There is now a route for any nation to be crowned champions of Europe and this will no doubt raise the aspirations of all our 26 members based in Europe. The expansion of the Championships will expose more nations to a higher level of competition and accelerate their development.

“Commercially the format, including a Championship final, is more attractive to sponsors and broadcasters which should further improve the exposure and investment into international rugby league.”

The Men’s Rugby League European Championships is the highest tier of international competition in Europe and started in 1935, it currently takes place every two years.

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP - 2020 Key Dates

17/18 October – Round 1
24/25 October – Round 2
31st Oct/ 1st Nov – Round 3
7th – 8th Nov – Final (Venue TBC)

There will also be a separate draw for the fixture format, with each nation playing a home and away game.

The two games over three weeks provides all nations with a blank weekend to arrange additional internationals should they wish to do so.
 

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EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS TO EXPAND IN 2020:

The draw will take place in Serbia on Friday evening (7pm, CET 8pm) for the expanded men’s 2020 European Championships, which will feature four levels of competition for the first time.

In the senior Championship, holders France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be joined by Italy and, for the first time, Spain, with a final to be held - most likely in France, on 7 or 8th November - and relegation to European Championship B introduced.

The nations will be drawn into two groups of three, which will culminate with the group winners playing each other.
 

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Lebanon will return, alongside 2019 holders Nigeria, runners-up Morocco and hosts South Africa, to compete in this year’s Middle East Africa Championship, which will be held in Pretoria in the autumn.

The Cedars, who will only select players from their domestic competition – something they previously did at home to Italy in the 2017 Mediterranean Cup - last participated in the MEA Championship in 2015, defeating South Africa in both matches to qualify for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
The LRLF is still planning to launch their local championship later this month despite civil unrest in the country which has prevented other Lebanese sporting federations from running their competitions.

Lebanon RL CEO Nayef Abi Said, commented: “We are looking forward to participating again in the MEA Championship, it will provide an opportunity for our Lebanese championship players to further prepare for RLWC 2021 as part of the LRLF’s new strategy to expand and strengthen the domestic game.”

Nigeria defeated Morocco 38-10 in Lagos to lift the MEA title last year - Ghana beating Cameroon 10-4 to claim third spot, and NRLA general manager Ade Adebisi noted: “Having been crowned champions of Africa last year, the next step is to test ourselves against previous World Cup entrants and established members in Lebanon and South Africa. This is what sport is all about, year-on-year improvement and a chance to evaluate ourselves at new levels. Domestically this is a real catalyst for Nigeria Rugby League to improve all aspects of our competition.”

Morocco RL president, Yamina Abdesselem, said: “We are delighted to playing once again in the MEA Championship. We have a lot of domestic presence including a club competition, World Cup promotion, school activity and an U19s international planned. Everything is geared towards strengthening our national team in a sustainable way and our preparations for this year’s MEA Cup will be much stronger as a result.”
 

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New start for Russia.

A new board of directors has been appointed by the governing body for rugby league in Russia, the ARLC, together with exciting plans for the future - after assistance from the Rugby League European Federation.

One of the new appointees is Englishman Jon Christie, a teacher in Moscow who has been resident for two years with his Russian wife and child, and is a former player with Nottingham Outlaws. “Our first meeting as a board was extremely positive.” He said. “This is a new beginning for the sport in Russia and one I am extremely excited about.
2020 will see the debut of our new domestic competition and the return of our national team for the European Championships.“

Russia, reigning champions of European Championship B, withdrew from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup qualifiers last year due to governance issues. As a result ARLC President Denis Korolev agreed that the RLEF should lead on the necessary changes.

Committed to on-going support for the sport in Russia, the RLEF were present in Moscow last week and chaired all the vital meetings to bring together the new directors. General manager Chris Thair commented: “We are delighted this first stage of reforms is now complete and my RLEF colleague Jovan Vujosevic, who has responsibility for the region, has worked tirelessly on this.
 

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he draw has been made for the men’s 2020 MEA Championship, with current holders Nigeria facing Lebanon for the first time. Likewise, hosts South Africa have an inaugural encounter with last year’s runners-up Morocco in the double-header semi finals on 13th October.

The two winners will face off in the decider on 17th October, with the 3rd place play-off game taking place beforehand; all matches to be played at the Tuks Stadium in Pretoria.

South Africa RL president, Dr Frans Erasmus, commented: “The high on our calendar this year will definitely be the Middle East Africa Championship. I am looking forward to the event with great expectation and am confident that we can do well.”

His opposite number, Morocco RL president Yamina Abdesselem, said: “We will count on our team spirt to stand us in good stead. To start against South Africa boosts our preparation; it will not be easy, but we intend to give them a little trouble.”

This will be the third MEA Championship, with Lebanon taking the first in 2015, which was a two-legged qualifier against South Africa for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The tournament was increased to four nations last year and will consider further expansion as it now moves to a two-year cycle. This time, almost all of the 19-man squads will be made up of domestic players, with a maximum number of six heritage players allowed.

“Nigeria are looking forward to the competition in South Africa,” noted their head coach Joe Mbu. “Lebanon will be the toughest challenge we have come across in our infancy as a rugby league nation, nevertheless, the players can't wait to test themselves, especially as the defending champions.”

Nayef Abi Said, Lebanon RLF CEO, added: “It is good and balanced draw. This will be the first time all our nations have met which adds to the excitement overall. It should be an interesting game to play.”
 

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The 20th Serbian domestic campaign got underway with the now traditional curtain-raiser, the annual Risman Cup challenge match, at the Skolarac stadium in Ub. Team Bev – the Serbian U21s - defeated Team John, their national U19s, 28-16; Valentino Milovanović with two of the victor’s five tries.

The match, named after the famous rugby league family who originally came from Lithuania, was the eighth in the series and proved to be good preparation for the Serbia U19 team, who will play in the U19 European Championship later this year in Italy, full back Veljko Stalević among their try scorers.

The game was the highlight of an afternoon that also included a festival which saw over 100 young boys and girls, from age U12 upwards take part, many of whom had played in the third winter league tournament.

Next up is the semi final of the Serbian Super Cup, which will see Partizan and Radnicki Nis meet at FC Heroj Polet for the right to face Red Star, whilst the defending champions take on returning side Tashmajdan Tigers in a friendly fixture at Stadium Ada Ciganlija.
 

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Undefeated Kadikoy Bulls’ 26-22 victory over Kandira in Turkey Rugby League’s inaugural U18 Grand Final is another significant milestone in the sport’s international development.

Following the establishment of men’s, women’s and beach rugby league competitions in the country in recent years, the governing body has just overseen the completion a four-team junior championship which also involved Aqua Warriors RC and Buffalos RC.

TRLA president Gurol Yildiz said: “Launching an U18 competition for 2019-20 was an amazing achievement for our local clubs. We had great demand from our upcoming youth, especially after competing against Ukraine in our first U19s European Championship play-off last August. This gave hope and excitement to them.
 

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Hosts South Africa, plan to showcase their domestic talent when they hold the 2020 Middle East Africa Championship against established nation Lebanon, defending champions Nigeria and 2019 runners up Morocco later in the year.

Esjé Esterhuyse, a rising rugby league star in the country, who made his senior international Rhinos debut against the Cook Islands last June is one such prospect. “I have never been so excited about a tournament, and the whole group will be doing all they can to lift the trophy,” he said. “The sport is becoming much more professional in South Africa and we hope to see that filtering through on the field”.

Esterhuyse, who has just turned 21, is a key member of the TuksRL Reds team that beat the Bears in the SARL domestic club final last month. A strong, deceptive runner, he first started playing the sport at the University of Pretoria and quickly gained selection for the national U19s team, which included a fixture against the touring Australia Universities team.

The 2020 men’s MEA Championship will be hosted at the Tuks Stadium in Pretoria with a double header semi finals day on 13th October, which will see Nigeria play Lebanon and South Africa stage an inaugural encounter with Morocco.

The two winners will face off in the decider on 17th October, with the 3rd place play-off game taking place beforehand.
 

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A special meeting of the Malta Rugby League board has agreed to postpone all local activity, effective immediately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile in Russia, ARLC director Jon Christie issued the following statement: “In response to new government legislation introduced to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Moscow and beyond, the ARLC must confirm the postponement of the 2020 domestic championship.