Three weeks into a national Italian Rugby League competition under a new brand – the ‘r-Evolution League’ as managed by the Italia RFL is starting to show glimpses of a game that was lost after the 50’s and 60’s – as it was known in mystery back than as ‘gioco a 13’, but now Rugby a 13. But also rugby league has gained growing niches in Rome (under 2010 Champions – Gladiators Roma) and through the Sicilians with Spartans Catania. Rugby League had never been played at a domestic level outside Northern Italy until 2010 when the Italia RFL was born.
The r-Evolution League branding as Italia RFL President, Matteo Visona describes “stems from rugby league’s historic “rebellious” roots when it was first created in England, the revolt of the Northern Rugby Football Union when they broke away to forge the new game and also the fact that League is an evolution of the primordial Rugby code – therefore the brand has a natural meaning for both.”
Under the management of Massimo Nicotra and player-coach Marco Suaria in just over a year the Spartans Catania franchise have turned an unknown sport into a growing opportunity for youth to thrive with. Starting from scratch the Spartans have added dozens of participating players to rugby league through the launch of their two seasons and four new dual rugby clubs (CUS, Belpasso, Catania 2009 & Briganti) acting as feeder teams for Catania Rugby League in the earlier competition this year – the inaugural Coppa Italia Rugby League competition. The full squad in the r-Evolution League has remarkably been recruited from all Catania Rugby clubs – San Gregorio, Amatori, Cus, Belpasso, Briganti, Misterbianco and 2009 Catania Rugby, while outside the Catania region any form of rugby is scarcely played.
A quite exciting feat with the Spartans Catania squad is the strong youth influence with over 11 players in their squad aged being between 18 to 21 years old (some rookies – some into their second year). The youth members amongst the “band of brothers” are Giulio Forte, Luka Leone (his father Franco is manager), Christian Jagic, Salvo Catania, Federico Dell’Aria, Michele Rosolia, Attilio Bonnici, Giansalvo Micale, Vincenzo Cartarrasa, Diego Irato and Giuseppe Frosini. It begs the questions – could this be the youngest top flight rugby league club in Europe?
One player who debuted with the Spartans last year (debuted at 17 years old, before turning 18) was Giulio Forte who gave his accounts of experiencing rugby league with the Spartans; “I like with rugby league that there is a lot of breaks, there is more time, and it is very hard but at the same time there are enough spaces to run with the ball in hand!” , “Certainly in Italy (rugby league) is growing because we are already doubled the number of teams!” , “I have a lot of fun with the Spartans even though we are a team with very little experience! There are players who have a lot to learn but they do everything possible!” While Luka Leone added “I like the tackling style in rugby a 13 and the game in general, it has certainly help improved my tackling. Rugby a 13 was advised from a friend to me.”
The youthful Spartans side have performed very well despite the one win, as they have been competitive against the undefeated Gladiators Roma (won 6 from 6 since foundation) and another strong outfit from Firenze – “The Magnificants” with the opposition only getting away late in their matches; in particular the match against Firenze allowed a hard fought contest, but the Magnifici brickwall defense reduced the Spartans attacking raids. Spartans Catania along with the other Italia RFL franchises will have two more weeks left to qualify for the Grand Final to be held in Rome on July 10 – but those who miss out will feature in Italia RFL finals day lead up matches.
Italia RFL in over a year has allowed rugby league to expand and evolve in small steps to the regions of: Lazio (Rome), Umbria (Perugia), Reggio Emilia (Albinea Rex RL), Sicilia (Catania) and adding with the new Jaguars RLFC in Padova (the Jaguars) through both the Italia RFL championship and Italian Cup.
With the development of youth – rugby league looks set to grow on the Mediterranean island and Italy.
Spartans Catania results:
Round 1 – r-Evolution League (Campionato Italia Rugby a 13) – Spartans Catania 20 – 44 Gladiators Roma
Round 2 – r-Evolution League (Campionato Italia Rugby a 13) – Spartans Catania 4 vs 24 Magnifici Firenze
Round 3 – r-Evolution League (Campionato Italia Rugby a 13) – Jaguars RLFC (Padova) – 14 vs 32 Spartans Catania (Sicilia)
Italia RFL updates can be found at:
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