David Niu over at We Are Rugby, and the head honcho behind most of the Rugby League efforts in the U.S., has an interesting post up about the expansion of the American National Rugby League beyond it’s traditional base in the Northeast into other parts of the country. I’ve interviewed some of the people involved in AMNRL a little over a decade ago, and they are really good guys.
Many of the places that have been targeted already have strong rugby roots in the U.S., places such as Denver, Utah, Las Vegas, California and Texas, as well as the Pacific Northwest. Given the foothold that league already has in the Northeast and the South (with a team in Jacksonville, Florida and interest from Tennessee and North Carolina), developing a conference in the West to compete with them might make AMNRL more compelling – mix that with a championship match in Texas, or at someplace like the Disney World Sports Complex (perfect for teams from the West, they can make it a three-day trip with the family) and they have something that can be shown on TV.
Speaking of TV, while USA Rugby has an advantage in the media market right now, with the agreement by NBC to broadcast Olympic Rugby here in the U.S., as well as next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Rugby League is starting to make inroads, and has the support of some Australian actor… some guy named Russell Crowe, you might have heard of him.
P.S. One other thing, if Rugby League wants to grow in the U.S., the AMNRL needs to change their team name. The “U.S. Tomahawks” is not exactly PC or a friendly name to all ethnic groups out there. And it’ll cause some PR problems down the line.