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Tony Williams signs with New York Freedom in North American Rugby League​

 
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Montenegro Rugby League has become the latest governing body to submit an application for Observer status with the European Rugby League. Club side South Region is currently competing in the Serbian domestic championship based out of the Adriatic Coast cities of Tivat and Bar, the local government there offering support for the sport.
 

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Seven European officials from four countries have been selected in the International Rugby League (IRL) international match officials squad (IMOS), which will operate under the elite panel and officiate international matches outside the top tier.

As part of the EU-Funded Erasmus+ projects, European Rugby League (ERL) has been investing in technical development across Europe since 2014, including a network of match officials, tutors and educators which has seen a significant growth in the number of officials.

Alongside, there has been an increase in the opportunity for them to be deployed, with a particular emphasis on the 2018 European Youth and senior Championships, during which Spain’s Andy Pilkington became the first appointment from a federation outside of England or France to officiate at a Test match.

IRL International Match Officials Squad

Kasey Badger (Australia)

James Child (England)

Anthony Eliott (New Zealand)

Adam Gee (Australia)

Peter Gough (Australia)

James Jones (Wales)

Chris McMillan (New Zealand)

Scott Mikalauskas (England)

Paki Parkinson (New Zealand)

Andrew Pilkington (Spain)

Geoffrey Poumes (France)


Hanua Rupa (Papua New Guinea)

Belinda Sharpe (Australia)

Chris Sutton (Australia)

Rochelle Tamarua (New Zealand)

Ben Thaler (England)

Etika Tukana (Fiji)

Stephane Vincent (France)

Paul Wane (Papua New Guinea)
 

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A third straight victory over neighbours Germany, thanks to a stirring second half performance in the Zwolle rain, saw the Netherlands win the 2020 Griffin Cup, 20-18; in the only rugby league Test Match set to be played in the northern hemisphere this year.

The Dutch now lead the series 4-3, and the victory was their fifth consecutive international win.

Rather than the outcome, however, this was a triumph for perseverance and dedication to get the game on, after further government restrictions for the Utrecht region saw it moved from Amersfoort to its third venue at very short notice.

The match was also played in dedication to the memory and development work of Germany RL founder Simon Cooper.
 
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There will be a different name on the Serbian Cup trophy, as Partisan 1953 face Radnicki Nis at the FC Heroj Polet stadium in the Belgrade suburb of Jajinci.

It is the oldest rugby league competition in the country going back to the days of the former Yugoslavia, having been first contested in 1958 when Jedinstvo Pancevo defeated Madost Zagreb 16-14 in Borovo, and run until 1963. From the reformation of the game in the country in 2011, Dorcol have claimed 11 of the 16 finals played, Red Star the last three and four in total, with Partisan’s last triumph in 2017, to match their 1960 win over Zmaj Zemun.
 

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2021 Rugby League World Cup debutants Jamaica and Greece will face each other for the first time in a warm up game ahead of the tournament.

The nations will meet on Friday 15 October at Castleford’s Mend-a-Hose stadium and the match will double as a testimonial for Tigers’ back and reggae warrior Jordan Turner
 

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The Board of International Rugby League (IRL) has elevated France to Tier 1 status in the wheelchair discipline of the sport. This change will mean that players who represent France at full international level will be unable to play for other Tier 1 nations, currently England, Australia, and New Zealand and vice versa. Players will still be able to elect to play for other nations outside of Tier 1 subject to the normal eligibility rules. The Tier 1 nations for the male and female running game remain unaltered as Australia, England, and New Zealand.
 

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Initial steps have been taken to start a rugby league competition in Slovakia after a third four-team tournament was completed in Bratislava at the weekend.

Sides from Rugby Klub Bratislava, Zilina, Nitra and Liptovský Mikuláš took part in a short form format, with some players also joining from Sal’a; Zilina the overall winners.

Charles Cimetiere, one of the founders of Slovakian Rugby League, commented: “We have the numbers slowly but surely. Overall the performances have increased significantly since we have been released from the second wave of Coronavirus in April 2021, but with good lads everything's possible. The association Slovak Rugby League Federation is not registered yet, this is our main goal in 2021.”

The organisers are now hoping to move to a regular 9s competition as the next development.
 

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Aleksandr Kolikov, president of the Russian Association of Rugby League Clubs (ARLC) was part of the 70th birthday celebrations for former chess grand master Anatoly Karpov, president of the Union of National and Non-Olympic Sports of Russia, which recognises the status of rugby league in the country.

Kolikov, who has been a close acquaintance of Karpov since 1998, outlined how the sport was returning to play in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. “The Association of Rugby League Clubs of Russia and the Union of National and Non-Olympic Sports are currently working on several joint business projects and we use every meeting as a chance to discuss further details,” Kolikov said at the birthday event. “Now the ARLC invests all its resources into the realization of these projects. We do hope and envisage the future with great confidence, that these projects will be fulfilled in three to five years, and we will become a full partner of the European Rugby League.”

Kolikov continued: “We are going to organize a 9s cup among the youth at U15 level for six teams, and in June a 9s tournament for adults to identify the level of participation which will be the basis for the final list of those who will play in the championship.
 

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he Ghana rugby league season kicked off at the weekend, with the first three matches of the 2021 campaign played at the Legon Rugby Field in Accra in front of excited fans.

In the inaugural youth league encounter, Firm Foundation defeated African Warriors 12-0, while the men’s competition saw Accra Panthers defeat Bulls 24-14 and Skolars triumph 26-0 over newcomers Nungua Tigers.

Bulls led in the first half of their game but could not withstand a second half Panthers comeback. “My boys were not getting their flow in the first half. We talked about what we needed to do to rectify that at the break and were much better thereafter,” said Panthers head coach Awudu Mustapha Jafaru.

Captain of the losing side, Collins Ofosu, noted: “We are not happy with the outcome of the game, our players relaxed too much after the first half, but we will learn from that.”

Hero for Skolars was Chris Da-Gama, who crossed for three of his side’s four tries. “It was great to welcome the Tigers to the league and a good game from our team in our first start for a while after the lockdowwn. We are confident and prepared to win the league this year.”
 

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The first competitive game of women’s rugby league kicks off later today in Nigeria, when Lagos Haven face Lagos Rhinos in the Western Conference. Three teams, The Kings the other, will play each other twice in a round robin format to determine the Conference champions.

Chair of the Nigeria RL Association, Abiodun Olawale Cole, said: “We are very proud to be able to bring forward the formal start of the women’s competition, such has been the demand to play. It is truly wonderful to see so many wanting to participate.
 

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European Rugby League has agreed a new partnership with sports manufacturer Steeden to become the official match ball supplier of the confederation.

Steeden is currently the official match ball of professional competitions Betfred Super League in Europe, and the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia where the company is based, and enjoys relationships with several national rugby league federations globally. Steeden’s Symmetry will become the official match ball for all official European Rugby League competitions.

Good to see.
 

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Belarus: In preparation for their first rugby league season, a training session has been held in the Belarus city of Gomel, featuring players from Varangians and Fierce Club.

Varangians president Illia Turyk said: “We had a invitational tournament in 2019 in Rechitsa that involved Ukrainian and Russian sides, and worked on the creation of a four team championship here. Unfortunately the pandemic quarantine and the political situation meant that out work was interrupted.
 

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The Czech Republic domestic rugby league season kicks off with promoted side RLC Dragons Krupka hosting 2020 champions Vrchlabi Mad Squirrels in the first division. Five teams will contest the championship, an increase from four last year, with All Plebs Moravska Trebova - founded in 2018 - joining the top flight.

They will make their debut tomorrow travelling to Chrudim Rabbitohs/Orli Havlickuv Brod. Slavia Hradec Kralove complete the competing clubs who, due to the later start because of Covid-19 restrictions will play each other once, the top two then meeting in the Grand Final in October.
 

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Wales maintained their hold on the wheelchair Celtic Cup, raising the trophy for the fifth consecutive time since the competition’s inception in 2016.

They impressively accounted for Ireland and Scotland at the Oriam Performance Sport Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, racking up 198 points and conceding only 34.

Wales head coach Stephen Jones said: “I was very impressed with the way the whole team performed today. There were some very solid individual performances, but we played well as a unit. The four debutants made a big impact when they came onto the court and have fitted into the squad nicely. Both games were phenomenal performances to win by such large margins and will give us a big dose of confidence going into the England game on 26 June in Sheffield and the World Cup later this year.”

In the holders’ first game, Ireland took a shock lead from Peter Johnston Jr but a first half hat trick from Stuart Williams, who ended with five tries, put Wales on track. Jamie Reynolds became the youngest Wales Wheelchair international when he came off the bench, and was also part of the first father and son duo to play at the same time alongside his father Jason. Jodie Boyd-Ward also made her debut and posted a brace of tries.
 

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A young Serbian side posted nine tries to run out 50-4 winners away in Bosnia & Herzegovina at the NK Rijeka ground in Vitez, in the first rugby league international staged in 2021.

Partisan 1953 prop Djordje Krnjeta crossed twice for the visitors as did Dorcol scrum half Mateja Nedeljkovic, who led 18-4 at the break and dominated the second period.

It was the first official Test match for the hosts, Bosnia & Herzegovina RL Federation president Zeljko Ljubanic, commenting: “It was a special day for us, the first time we are as one and it was a good match and performance from us after only being able to train together twice as the Covid restrictions begin to be lifted.
 

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Bulgaria will play their third rugby league international when they face Serbia at FC Trebich in Sofia. Their previous matches were in the 2017 Balkan Cup, both in Belgrade, when they went down 68-8 to Greece and 50-20 against Serbia.

They come into the match with confidence, however, club side Lokomotive Sofia defeating Tsar Dusan the Mighty 62-12 in the Serbian second division a fortnight ago, the first-ever victory by any Bulgarian rugby league side. That game was played in the Serbian city of Paracin in the stadium where the first domestic rugby league fixture was played in the region - on 25 April 1954, between Partsian Belgrade and Radnicki Belgrade.

Bulgarian Rugby League Federation president, Tihomir Simenov, commented: “We have been part of European Rugby league since 2017 including participating in the Balkan Super League with Locomotive Sofia and 9s. We are still processing official recognition by the Bulgarian Ministry of Youth and Sport and fighting for our rights. We hope that performing well in this international will help our cause.”
 

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Wales had a tough outing against England on Saturday, as the hosts won the one-off Wheelchair test 102-22, giving the English two wins out of three in their female-male-wheelchair international weekend.

Despite Wales having some good spells during the game, England took them to the sword as the Welsh conceded 100 points for the first time in four years.
 

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An initial three school festival has taken place in Nigeria which will lead to a further five playing as part of an outreach development program. Lagos Haven Rugby League Club hosted the event as part of the larger NRLA youth strategy plan, iTry.

Jubril Martins Memorial Grammar School, Caro Favoured College and Toyibat High School played in the initial matches and youth coach Samson Okeowo, commented: “Lagos Haven RLFC is proud to announce the commencement of Lagos Schools Rugby League. An all Lagos schools tournament will take place towards the end of July and will be the first of its kind, marking a successful inaugural year of our Outreach program.
 

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The men’s and inaugural women’s and junior champions have been decided in Ghana after a six week season of highly competitive rugby league. Ghana Skolars men emerged victorious after beating Ghana Bulls 14-8 in the final round of matches at Legon Field in Accra, which saw them finish one point ahead of their rivals on the standings. Accra Panthers were third ahead of newcomers Nungua Tigers.

Panthers Ladies took the women’s title a point in front of the Tigers, while African Warriors won their three match series 2-1 against Firm Foundation to take the Junior crown.

Warriors’ player Mohammed Yakubu said: “I am very grateful for this opportunity given my team and I. I would like to thank my coach Eric Sowah for encouraging and making time for the team to get to this point as champions and history makers.”

RLFG general manger Jafaru Mustapha added: “The future of rugby league in Ghana is bright. With these matches completed, we move to selecting players to represent the Ghana Origin sides as we prepare the best for playing for their country.”