Photo by Mine
There are not too many bigger problems to navigate than a global pandemic when you’re trying to get a sport off the ground in a new frontier. Whilst California Rugby League (CRL) are not unique in battling the economic and societal effects of Covid-19, many people wouldn’t begrudge them if the competition was postponed, or even thrown in altogether.
In a feat of resilience, rugby league in California has gone from strength to strength. This Saturday’s highly anticipated showdown between the Los Angeles Mongrel and the San Francisco Savage, two of the original teams, is the most anticipated matchup in the competitions short history to date.
The 2021 competition has been drastically expanded to now include seven teams, all with a firm commitment to play three games each. Whilst this might not sound like a lot, it represents a marked increase from the one game played in 2019 and 2020 when the competition consisted of just a couple of teams. The 2021 competition consists of East Palo Alto Razorbacks, Los Angeles Mongrel, San Francisco Savage, Sacramento Young Tigers, North Bay Dead Pelicans, San Diego Barracudas and the Sacramento Immortals.
Off the back of the progress made in 2021, California Rugby League is confident the competition will then grow to 8-12 games per team in 2022. With fan engagement said to be a strength in the Golden State, organisers are urging as many people in the Bakersfield area to come out and see high-quality rugby league live for the first time.
Originally kicking off on June 26 with the LA Mongrels beating the Sacramento Immortals, navigating the Covid-19 environment has proved to be a huge challenge for the competition however officials have battled through restrictions to safely execute the season and are said to have gained invaluable experience which is expected to be called upon next year too.
With Covid-19 having such a large bearing on the logistics of the competition, it makes for a very interesting points table. Whilst the LA Mongrels lead the competition having won both games they’ve played to date, a grand final consisting of the LA Mongrels and the San Francisco Savage isn’t a given, as the East Palo Alto Razorbacks have won the only game they’ve played to date and still have two games still to play. This puts them in a very similar position as the highly fancied San Francisco Savage, with only point’s differential separating them.
Hold the ball, a popular YouTube podcast that helps keep fans up to date with the California Rugby League is predicting somewhat of an upset, with an “HTB guarantee” of a 20-22 San Francisco Savage victory before adding the caveat not to mark it word by word as this game could honestly go either way. With fans unable to pick between these two pioneering teams, it’s likely to be a matchup for the ages.