The American Road Trip and Southern Expansion

By Daniel Andruczyk

Happy New Year! I hope that all my readers have had a great and safe New Year Celebrations and didn’t over do it and all got home safely. Well, my Christmas and New Year break has been quite eventful. I did a road trip down to Florida from Illinois, one of a couple thousand miles. I have seen some pretty amazing things here, one that makes you realise the potential of this country in anything it does. The most outstanding thing I have seen is Cape Canaveral and NASA, that just re-enforces the awesome power of this country. However as always with me, with nealry all my trips there is no lack of Rugby League and I certainly did have a Rugby League experience here.

The Southern Chiefs

So as I was driving down to Fort Pierce for my break, one of the states I drove through was Tennessee. Luckily the interstate also went through Chattanooga, which happens to be where the Southern Chiefs are going to be based. The Chiefs are one of the new AMNRL expansion teams. There has been lots of talk about the western expansions but the southern expansion teams have been largely forgotten for some reason. So while driving through Chattanooga I caught up with Luke Collins who is setting the team up. Over a coffee I was able to get some info from him on his plans.

To start I was curious about his background in Rugby League. So Luke is a Penrith Panther Jr. and also played at Palm-Beach Currumbin SHS, playing his senior football in the Colts u19’s Mixwell cup now known as FOGS for the Tugun Seahawks and A Grade in the CRL NRRL for South Tweed Koalas. He also had a playing stint with the Connecticut Wildcats in 2005 where he was a grand finalist and again in 2010 for the Aston Bulls.

As I mentioned, there has been much focus on then expansion in the WEST with the AMNRL, but not much has been said about the southern expansion, mainly Tennessee and Carolina. I asked what Luke’s plans for the Tennessee club were? He said “ Initial plans are to establish the game of Rugby League at grassroots level. We will not be a successful outfit without the support and foundation of the local juniors. Plans are to incorporate the game into Middle and High schools across our region by 2012 and develop the game into the college landscape.” He goes on to say ”My vision for this club is to provide a Rugby League outlet for existing union players who are tired of the summer sevens series and also introduce a new sport to local athletic talent who have performed at high levels of competition in other respective sports. Community work will be our main focus in the admin department, we plan on giving back to the area in any way we can through Rugby League.”

A natural question was what would a Tennessee club would bring to an expanded AMNRL? “It would bridge the divide between Florida and the north eastern teams. Chattanooga is the gateway to the south and if Rugby League can cement a foothold here then it will only be a matter of time before it moves into the Carolinas and across to the Mississippi. For Rugby League to grow in the US more than 1 team needs to exist down here, there is an abundance of athletic talent down here.”

I had to ask the question, how much help has Luke had from the AMNRL and the other established teams? Has there been any interference from anyone trying to stop you? Luke was pretty adamant in his answer ”David Niu has been tremendous in his efforts and has been a motivating factor in this push for a team to be developed in the south.” He said further “We have not had any interference from any other team but we have not been in communication either. Not to many people know about us, which could be a good thing for now. We are happy to continue to fly under the radar as we pool our resources together and evaluate our strategic goals for this coming year and hit the ground running as soon as we are on it.”

Finally I asked What the goal for 2011 is and also for the next few years in terms of games, the club and where they want to be? I found Luke to be a straight shooter by now and this last answer was no different, “Our goal for 2011 is to host a draft style camp for athletes in our area who are interested in our game. From there we hope to organise a few trial games with existing members of the AMNRL and possibly field a team in the annual War at the Shore. In 2012 we would like to be competing in our inaugural season with a solid membership base and sponsorship.”

So there you have it, some more info on the AMNRL expansion, but this time from a less well known expansion area the south. Luke did also mention that the players he will be targeting are not just from the Chattanooga area but from Nashville, Atlanta Georgia and Birmingham Alabama. So exciting times ahead, and for me that makes a second team I can actually very easily visit for a weekend trip and game from where I am based.

Huge Potential

OK so this part is not about Rugby League. But one of the things I did down here was to go to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Seeing the what this country can do when it wants to is pretty awe inspiring. Driving past the Shuttle Assembly Hall and seeing the Launch pads from only a couple miles away was an amazing experience. There is also the Apollo Mission museum where they have one of the Saturn V rockets there. Wow what an awesome machine.


One of the LC 39 Launchers for the Shuttle.

But what got me thinking was how great the potential in the USA that Rugby League could have. It’s the can do attitude here of people, and once you get someone hooked on an idea, there is no limit to achieving the goal. I can’t wait to see where the AMNRL will go in the next few years.

Happy New Year

And now with the New Year literally a few hours away here, I’d like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year and I hope that all your dreams come true and that you all get home safe from what ever celebrations you have. Happy New Year Everyone!

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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