The Rise of the Western Dragon

By Daniel Andruczyk

Monday night, well it wasn’t the NRL, but just as good I thought. Channel 9 are showing the second ESL game at midnight. It was the Crusaders and Catalans at the Wrexham’s Sportsground. Two things were a stand out, the quality and gritty play of the Crusaders and the decent crowd that came out in that damn cold weather.

For those antipodeans that aren’t aware of what’s been happening in the UK and Super League the last few seasons, Super League went to the 3 year franchise system. 2009 was the first year this came into being and teams were asked to submit applications and were chosen using a “rigorous” decision process by the RFL. Surprise surprise the 12 ESL teams got in but the two extra teams were Salford and the Celtic Crusaders. Salford is an old traditional team, the original Red Devils, based around Manchester, but are still seen as a expansion team to try and tap into the Manchurians. Celtic were based in Bridgend at the Brewery Field about 20 minutes up the road from Cardiff. This was the umpteenth attempt by the Welsh to finally establish professional Rugby League in Wales.

Rugby League fans fell into two camps, the pro and against Crusaders camps. The pro camp argues that for the good of the game we needed Wales, it was in heartland rugby union and struck a blow for Rugby League at the old enemy. It would force greater coverage of the sport now that rugby league was in town.

The cons argued that there was not much support for them, simply because it is heartland Rugby Union, its a small obscure town out of the way and hard to get to for many League fans. They had little or no home support let alone away support and their structure and ground were just not up to scratch.

The truth is somewhere in the middle I suspect. Celtic showed that there was a market for Rugby League, and the amateur comp grew as well as the juniors. They did however suffer from a very old stadium, small crowds, if they got 3000 it was lucky. And eventually their wealthy benefactor pulled out under growing debt.

They were forced either fold or find a new home and reinvent themselves. They did the latter and moved north to Wrexham a town that or region that has no professional sport. They were opened with welcome arms and the locals came out accordingly. Crusaders first game against Leeds had a crowd over 10,000, other games against Hull and Catalans has also drawn crowds over 8000 and 6000. The support seems to be there. Their rebranding has worked and they do intend on playing some games south still.

But south Wales is not devoid of Rugby League, The South Wales Scorpions have formed and entered into Championship 1, and have a couple successes already. Again they seem to have a good local player base and have a good path for local juniors to come through the ranks.

This domestic success is, I think, slowly transforming into international success. Indeed Wales at the lower international level is probably one of the strongest nations around. The amateur 4 nations they have won a few times and regularly beat the French and English at junior levels. Last year Wales won the European Nation Cup and this year will look to defend its title against Scotland, Ireland and France. The WRL are aiming to be the next full member of the RLIF, but as I understand it a country to get granted full member status it needs to pump its own money into the RLIF, something that I am not sure the Welsh are au top doing yet. I may be wrong.

One thing is for sure Wales seems like its going to be up there in the next few years as one of the stronger teams. If they can recreate their 2000 form then expect the Welsh to be there at the Semi-finals is not the finals. They have shown in the last few years they can match it with many of the stronger second tier nations including Papua New Guinea, whom they defeated in 2007. I am excited in seeing this. Having now 6-7 competitive nations in Rugby League is only something we have dreamed of in the past. Now its seems coming close to a reality.

Thanks to the posters

Last blog I made comments on the refereeing standard and that I felt that the 2 referee system was not working. This created some debate. I wont go over the specifics as all the comments are on the post to see. Though I am not yet to be convinced otherwise I do want to say a big thanks to those that did comments and have such a lively debate on the subject. I hope that it and other comments stir as much debate and passion.

House keeping

A big thanks to a poster on the blog as well, Deluded Pom, who has pointed out a few things for me to change. From now on when talking about Hull FC and KR I will refer to them as Hull and Rovers… or should that be ‘Ull und Ruvers?

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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11 Responses to “The Rise of the Western Dragon”

  1. C.T.SANDERS says:

    If a welsh franchise is going to work out in the long term they need to bring in big name rugby union signings because wales is a rugby country just like nz.That’s why the warriors continue to struggle because they won’t punt on big name rugby players which would draw in a different audience.Bums on seats.

  2. C.T.SANDERS says:


    • druzik says:

      Wouldn’t the money be better places going into providing a better local comp for players… I don’t see why Union players need to be poached. Would bringing over All Blacks bring over more fans?

      Gareth may be old-ish, but just as Union does with League players in Australia, League now is using a high profile Union player to up its profile in Wales. They’ll use him to boost the national team and games profile and he will be a dual international and then retire after next year.

  3. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Big name rugby union players bring in the crowds and that’s why the poms were virtually unbeatable for the first 70 years of rugby league football because rugby had a far better and bigger player pool than what rl had.The auckland rugby league under the dictatorship of cameron mcgregor have spent 3.5 million dollars on the auckland vulcans in the nsw cup or the poor man’s nrl comp over the last 4 years for no return playing in front of miserable crowds with no tv coverage.It has been a total and utter failure and disaster and the rugby union people here in auckland are laughing their tits off at our expense because the arl officals or the bluecoats as i call them don’t know what the hell they are doing.I would of bought half the current all black side with that amount of money squandered they[arl] on the vulcans and put them into our local fox competition to increase the profile of our sport.We would of drawn huge crowds unlike the vulcans which is a village team run by village idiots and of course many warrior misfits make up the playing roster.It’s a joke and of course you’re right on the ball players switching over to league puts bums on seats.

    • druzik says:

      Warrior misfits!… like who You think 3.5 million would have been enough to buy all-blacks…. I suspect those players would need more than that.

      Look I don’t know of Auckland Rugby Leagues issues, If going loocal will be better then so be it. I am sure they can figure that out eventually.

      As for Union players, if they want to switch then I am sure they will look to do that, otherwise it can be just as big a waste of money. Just look what the ARU did poaching NRL players…. in the end they lost out big time.

      Its developing home grown heroes that bring in the crowds.

  4. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Just look at the standard of the local club football on maori tv daniel.It’s a disgrace and it’s the worst standard of football in living memory and there’s no incentive for people to play the game because there are simply no tours or touring teams coming here.And the officials couldn’t care less because the game is all about them.

    • druzik says:

      Well not having access to maori TV, thata is a bit hard for me.

      Again its the tournaments that can be bigger carrots than tours. Not everyone can afford to do tours every year on their own back, but tournament’s where costs can be subsidized and payments guaranteed can make a better incentive.

  5. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Australia will win the rugby world cup next year and when the poms got the cream of the crop from rugby union in the first 70 years of competition in ashes football they were virtually unbeatable especially under unlimited tackles.The auckland rugby league has more money than the new zealand rugby union and could easily buy out the all blacks and with the aucklandrl only spending money on the vulcans that is what i call money going out of the game.With the boss of auckland rl cameron mcgregor controlling things like a dictator and having a board around him which he controls and pulls the wool over their eyes and where he employs drunks and people with criminal convictions the game here in auckland will continue to go no where.The vulcans have the worst record of any auckland rugby league provincial side in history largely thanks to inept administration and the clubs keep voting the same people in,They only got themselves to blame and deserve what they get and talk about the blind leading the dumd,but unlike nz, the people will revolt soon in australia because your game also needs a complete clean out as well.
    West tigers to win the premiership and leeds to win sl and the kiwis to win 4 nations daniel.And we need major tours because they made big money for the game and there is still no guarantees that tournaments will make money.When you go to the usa practice what you preach.

    • druzik says:

      Rugby League has more money than Rugby Union in New Zealand?! 😮 I fond that one hard to believe… where are you getting those fact from?

      If that was indeed th case then I bet any money they would have bought All Blacks out…. the fact they havent makes me think that kind of money is not there.

      Tours made money for Australia, New Zealand and England…. not the game. Big difference.

      Agree on the tips.

  6. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Go to Maori tv online and you will see it

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