USA Rugby League 9s – Some Interviews

By Daniel Andruczyk

After the USA Rugby League 9s I was able to catch up with Ryan McGough who was the organiser of the USARL 9s as well as Peter Illfield who is the Inaugural Chairman of the USA Rugby League. I asked about their impressions of the days events as well a bit more information on what the USA Rugby League is. I also had a chat to Mikhael Shammas about the NAMOA concept. First Up I caught up with Ryan McGough:

Rugby League International Scores: Ryan Your thoughts on today? Seemed a pretty good day, everyone got out there and played.

Ryan McGough: It was an excellent Day, everybody showed up, every team showed up and put on a good display of Rugby League.Its our newest tournaments the newest in the League I couldn’t be happier. There are 120 people here and its a holiday weekend, so I couldn’t ask for more and we got some hardware so its a good day.

RLIS: So that was one issue that it was the Memorial Weekend and that everyone has gone down to the Jersey Shore. The crows was a little bit down but I guess expected?

RG: Yeah, Totally expected, we were hoping for a hundred and we got it and a little bit more and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, the players sure did so it was a big success.

RLIS: And the New Zealand Fencibles, how good are they?

RG: Very impressive, very impressive. the last time I played them was at the 2008 Grand Final (AMNRL) and they had their big team. They had their horses today. They really put it to them and they were impressive to watch.


Photo: Marvin Dangerfield

Next I was able to get Peter Illfield for a few minutes to have a chat about the day and the USA Rugby League in General;

Rugby League International Scores: Peter what a wonderful day, beautiful weather, crowds were a bit down with Memorial Day Weekend. But the teams came out and we had a full day of some wonderful Rugby League, Particularly a wonderful New Zealand team. Your thought on today?

Peter Illfield: Well I guess the New Zealand Police side were always going to be the favourites that’s the first thing. We work hard on putting a format together for today, that we anted to fit into just one day and not take up two days of memorial weekend. We were successful in doing that with 12 teams for the tournament. 9s is something that is not familiar in the US so I think it was a good format on a full field and with the 12 teams kicking off at 9 o’clock this morning and the last at 6 pm tonight. We had three finals, a bowl, a Trophy and the Cup. Its our inaugural season our first 9s competition and it was fantastic.

RLIS: Time wise, every match seemed to start on time. there didn’t seem to be any technical hick ups or anything that I could see from where I was sitting.

PI: Well we had a great team. It comes from a few people. Ryan McGough our CEO did a lot of work getting the ground ready, but I must hand it to our referee’s Alan Chmielewski and Mik Shammas, who put together a team of referees who were aware of our time schedule and they are the guys control the game and manage the game in that respect. So were able to stick on time, we had no delays, we had only 1 draw which ended up in a 5 minute extra time and a Golden Try which didn’t take quite the 5 minutes so we were able to keep schedule in that regards. So A great venue, fantastic day and a huge success.

RLIS: Now Peter can you comments on I guess the Philosophy of the USA Rugby League, just in general what it stands for, the formation and why it was formed?

PI: The USARL, The United States Rugby League, was formed in January this year and it came from the interests of a number of people that had already been involved with Rugby League on the East Coast and some of the guys had ben involved in Rugby League for 10 years or more and they felt that they wanted to put together a competition, a league of teams that would show greater transparency and would be able to have a more defined structure and one that focuses on the development of the game across the Nation. Since coming together, we have a board of directors and I Chair those board of directors, I am involved with the Philadelphia Fight Club as Chairman and Coach there as well. It takes a lot of energy from a lot of guys to put this game on and we have had an unprecedented amount of interest across the country from a number of people out of Utah, Texas, California, Washington State and it just allows us to move towards the grass roots of the game, spreading the game on a more national basis and not so much from the pinnacle of the professional game, more to do with the expansion of the game through the greater numbers of players, greater number of participants be it they are coaches, referees, Trainers, doctors, players. We want to improve and increase the participation levels of rugby league and to do that we need a different base of people.

RLIS: One critisism that people have had over the years of Rugby league in the United States is the lack of juniors. Is that something that is going to be addressed by the USARL at all?

PI: the USARL has a strategic Plan and a development plan. Part of our strategic plan is to seek out interested parties in high schools and college systems and to pursue junior teams, the development of those teams, within our different regions. So to do that we need to target what is the more confident age group which is the senior players and have those senior players in different locations like here in Conshohocken at the Philadelphia Fight where we can knock on some doors be it High Schools or Elementary Schools, at different Colleges, we have a number of colleges now where the players have come across to play with us. So we are introducing the game, we had West Chester University participate in the 9s competition today. They’ve usually been a regular Rugby Union participant, now they are playing Rugby League. Those guys in their early 20’s will hopefully come across to play at a more junior level rather than the adult level. But these are guys that will have families in the area we need to get these families so we can introduce their children. Turn around, have a look at the grass, we have two young kids down this end that are kicking a footy around and loving the game of football here on the grass today… he has his young brother over there. They’re the kids we will attract to the game. I spoke to his parents earlier on and hopefully there are more of them from around town. So they are the kids we are after, bring them down here and we want to play some junior footy with them and have them grow up with the game as we did in Australia.

RLIS: Peter thank very much I know your tires and probably looking to get a beer.

PI: Its been a long day but its been a successful one, we’ll run this again next year. Congratulations to the New Zealand Police team, congratulations to the New Haven warriors for getting to the final and congratulations to the other winners of the Bowl and Trophy. Been a good day.

I also was able to talk with Mikhael Shammas from Boston who has been heavily involved with Lebanon Rugby League and the referee’s side of things for the USA Rugby League. So He has set up a unique organisation in North American Rugby League. NAMOA:

Rugby League International Scores: What is the role of NAMOA?

Mikhael Shammas: NAMOA (North American Match Officials Association) is founded  upon the values and ethical responsibility, and whos mission is to found and harbour a growing pool of qualified Match officials to manage the administration of fixtures, on field.

RLIS: What was the motivation to set up NAMOA?

MS: The sport of Rugby league Football is in a golden era of developmental progress across the globe; and not least within North America. Within this respect toward all nuances of this industry need be accounted for. Too often principle focus is given to players, coaches and supporters, with little or no respect paid towards the cornerstone of officiating. Therein, and in Lieu of this, NAMOA seeks to address these concerns and fully suport and facilitate the ever growing demand for qualified and professional Match Officials in the territories of North America.

RLIS: How does it link in with the USARL and Rugby league in the USA in General?

MS: NAMOA is in partnership and affiliation with the USARL and RLEF Technical Strategies; although seeks to impartially fulfill their mission of enhancing the overall quality of Match Officiating thoughout North America. While based in the United States, NAMOA seeks to work dierctly with all other North American governing bodies to bolster and support their own Referee’s Associations in an overarching and centralised effort.

RLIS: When was it all set up?

MS: Alan Chmielewski & I founded NAMOA in May 2011, upon returning from the RLEF Match Officials Tutors Course in London. While they represent the principle agents behind the organization, their own philosophy is infused with a future-facing strategy that remains open, transparent and ethically-bounded toward fostering the greatest levels of professionalism for all Match Officials within the North American territories.



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