Attempts to form Rugby League in Poland have had their ups and down over the last couple years. However finally the the sport has found its advocates and supporters not only overseas but in Poland itself.
Łukasz Łucka (pr. W-oo-ka-sh W-oo-ts-ka), has set up the first ever Rugby League club in Poland. Łukasz lives in the central city of Łόdź (pr. W-oo-j). Łόdź used to be a textile powerhouse, a city that rivalled Manchester, but under communism and since the fall of Communism had the industry collapse. In recent years the city has started to re-invent itself and many large companies are now setting up shop in Łόdź. However there still is an issue with many of the youth not being employed and not having anything to do.
After looking for several years for a sport that could be a focus for the youth, he stumbled upon Rugby League on the Internet in 2011. After a quick search he found that the sport did not exist at all in Poland, however there were attempts by Daniel Andruczyk in Australia to try and get the sport into the Polish community. Łukasz contacted Daniel and the two quickly formed a strong partnership to try and set up the sport formally in Poland.
Lukasz during the town meeting explaining the Club to potential new recruits (Photo: Daniel Andruczyk)
In the first few months Łukasz was able to have the first ever Rugby League club in Poland officially, registered and recognised by the Mayor and Council of Łόdź. The club is officially known as the Łόdzki Klub Rugby XIII, or in English Lodz Rugby League Football Club. The short name that the club has adopted is the Łόdź Magpies with the Magpie being one of the more common birds in the area and also it can help to form future links with overseas teams with a similar moniker.
Łukasz has started training sessions with players where they can. It’s been hard to get free fields from soccer teams and Rugby Union teams. Also starting a new sport from scratch means that the basics like playing gear are nonexistent and its next to impossible to get them in the country and expensive to get it from overseas. This is where Daniel was able to come in and help out. Using a few contacts through his dealings in Rugby League over the years Daniel was able to secure 4 playing Kits for the Club, this also means that new clubs will have access to shirts as well. Daniel was also able to secure balls and kicking tees for club.
Daniel Andruczyk doing a coaching session with the club. (Photo :Adrian Czerski)
In September Daniel travelled to Łόdź to meet Łukasz and the club members as well as do some promotion work and training sessions with them. The first day of the visit saw a city meeting to promote the game. Daniel talked about the history of the sport and the main differences between it and its counterpart rugby union. Łukasz then explained his motives for the sport and what he hopes to achieve.
Daniel explaining some more of the Rugby League techniques (Photo: Adrian Czerski)
The next day saw Daniel and Łukasz have a very productive meeting with the RLEF’s Danny Kazandjian and Jovan Vujosevic to see exactly what needs to be done to have the sport officially be recognised by the RLEF/RLIF. From there a training session for several hours was held. A great turnout of 25 new players was there. Most had been at the meeting and decided to give the sport a go. After going over some of the basics and a few drills to show the fundamentals of the sport a 9’s game was played between the players. All enjoyed playing the sport and were keen to continue with it. Since that session there are now over 20 players that are regularly turning up to training.
On another positive side, there was interest from Local media. Radio Łόdź came out and also Moje Miasto Łόdź which is a local internet news service. They did interviews with Łukasz and Daniel and an article can be found here.
There are two most fundamental things that need to happen now for the Club and sport. First is to get proper training in there, as the club is doing its best it really needs to get some professional coaching in there to get the players up to speed. Secondly a proper game against an opponent needs to happen. Though there are no other clubs in existence yet the club is looking at teams from outside Poland to be opponents and do training weekends.
Some of the action from the players during the coaching session (Photo: Adrian Czerski)
Further down the track, there are plans to set up new clubs. For Rugby League to be recognised as an official sport in Poland it needs a minimum of three clubs. The idea is to set these up in the Łόdź area, to target the smaller towns where the sport can be used as a focus for the community. The decision not to look for Rugby Union players and to grow Rugby League players from scratch has been made. Once the clubs are established a constitution for Polish Rugby League will be drawn up. Once this passes the Polish Government and EU regulations Poland will be up for consideration by the European Federation for observer status. The first ever international involving Poland as a Nation in Rugby league is also a possibility on the cards, but this would be for next year. It will actually be very important who the opponents will be to help promote the sport.
Overall the future looks bright for Poland Rugby League, it has a group of young energetic people behind it. With a strong group inside and help from outside, then the possibilities of Poland in the next year look good.
Lodz Magpies Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LodzMagpies/ (or @LodzMagpies)
Lodz Magpies Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lodz-Magpies-Lodz-Rugby-League-Football-Club/130337123725856
Polish Rugby League Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112627803172
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