Rugby League Reconciliation

By Brian Lowe

In a major gesture towards reconciliation, the American National Rugby League and USA Rugby League have agreed to jointly host the second Colonial Cup Test match between the United States and Canada.

The USA Tomahawks will play the Canadian Wolverines at A.A. Garthwaite Stadium in Conshohocken, PA, on Saturday, August 24, 2013. The international match will follow the USARL Championship Final.

The AMNRL and USARL have held separate competitions since 2011, but acknowledge it is in the best interests of rugby league in America to come together in this Rugby League World Cup year.

A.A. Garthwaite Stadium has storied links with rugby football having hosted AMNRL and USARL National Championship Finals, as well as Rugby League nine’s tournaments that have included teams from Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica.

The Tomahawks go into the Test against their archrivals trailing the three-game series 1-0 after Canada won the opener 36-20 on July 6 in Toronto.

The USA national team has a new domestic-based coach with Ben Kelly being appointed to replace the outgoing Marcus Vassilakopoulos, who has stepped down for personal reasons. Kelly, a former Tomahawk, hopes to emulate the contributions made by Coach Vassilakopoulos to the development of the national team.

Ben Kelly

New Tomahawks Coach Ben Kelly

“There was an opportunity to coach the team for the next two games against Canada. I jumped at the chance as I’m extremely passionate about the role.” said Kelly.

“I’ve picked a squad of 26 and that will be finalized into a squad of 17 on Monday. We expect the Canadians to come out firing and we’re prepping for that. It should be a great day of rugby league in Conshohocken and a great game against Canada.”

Kelly has been the Tomahawks’ strength and conditioning coach for the past couple of seasons and sees the move into a coaching role as a natural progression.

“I’m just excited about the opportunity and I’m very passionate about rugby league,” he said. “I started the Northern Raiders [AMNRL club] and to be able to help grow the game here in the States is something that I love to do.

“My heart and soul’s in rugby league, so to help coach the USA Tomahawks before the World Cup is a real honor. The goal is to get through our Group against the Cook Islands and Wales and possibly get to play a top team like Australia or England.”

“We need to get the best possible squad on the plane to England. The goal is to make sure the guys are in the best physical shape and that’s what I’m trying to facilitate. It’s a matter of putting together the domestic guys and getting them ready for the US team for the World Cup.”

The Tomahawks will be coached at RLWC2013 by Matt Elliott, head coach of the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL.



Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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4 Responses to “Rugby League Reconciliation”

  1. Interested Observer says:

    When some AMNRL players are saying that the only reason the USA v Canada game is being held in conjunction with the USARL final is to boost crowd numbers, people should worry. It is great to see a step towards unification but it is pretty obvious that the AMNRL are hoping to piggy back off the USARL’s event. Lets see if the eligibility situation changes after this event, that will be the true test of the AMNRL.

    • RLIS says:

      Oh, I have not heard that from AMNRL players myself.

      I am hearing other rumors about an “All Stars” game… but we’ll see if that is true or not.

      • Interested Observer says:

        You are spot on, there are all-star rumors and I can assure you that a number of players in AMNRL teams, although pleased with the steps towards unification, believe like many others that the USA v Canada game is to take advantage of crowd numbers.

      • RLIS says:

        Well I was able to talk with some players on the weekend from the Knights and Connecticut. These are the take away’s I took from discussions:
        * Vassy still considers the USARL guys to be traitors and has stepped down because of the deal made to play the international after the Grand Final.

        * Players worry that even with Ben Kelley at the helm, things will not change in regards with not selecting USARL players and also the Sharks players, it will be the policies of old to continue.

        * No one knows if David is still in charge of the AMNRL or not, but there is an executive board now and all teams are represented on it. This is a great step IMHO.

        * The game next weekend had not been organised at all. No field, no jersey’s, no hotels for the Canadian’s, no promotion, nothing. The USARL stepping in and helping them out was a welcome gesture and players really do hope this is a step towards mending things.

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