Written by Joshua Dean
Photo by California Rugby League
The California Rugby League competition kicked off last weekend, with the Los Angeles Mongrel narrowly beating the Sacramento Immortals 24-22 in the opening fixture. In a short and sharp season, it was important to hit the ground running.
With a population of almost 40 million people, California is a sports-mad state where people play and watch basketball, football and baseball religiously. However, there is a ripple occurring with smaller, much lesser-known sports such as rugby league spreading like wildfire across the state.
We recently spoke with California Rugby League spokesperson Mitchell Paesler to see what is happening in the ‘The Golden State’ when it comes to the greatest game of all.
“We have seven teams in our 2021 competition, where each team will play four games. The season started June 26th and will run until September 18th.” Paesler told Everything Rugby League.
Considering the barriers organisers have had to overcome, it is quite impressive that the season is up and running. Outside of the obvious hurdles COVID has caused, recruiting players to the sport is no easy task.
“Less than 1000 people play rugby league in the USA. The majority of the players grew up playing Rugby Union and Football. We also have a large expat population who grew up playing in their own country.”
Even so, the reception has been great among the very few who have been exposed to rugby league.
“The players love playing and the fans love watching. However, in a country of 330 million people, rugby league is virtually a needle in a field of haystacks.”
The market is obviously already saturated with many American sports, so for rugby league to succeed and grow, it is important to find the niche for it in the US.
“If there is a niche for rugby league, it is going to be a long and painful path that is going to take decades of sustained efforts.”
These sustained efforts are occurring across the US, with organisers trying to find talent as well as avenues for growth.
“Most teams have expressed interest in creating either a women’s program or a high school program. California Rugby League is focussed on supporting them to achieve their goals.”
One of the most important aspects of growth in sports is the number of young people playing. This is the mission for California Rugby League. There are already many young athletes who have made the switch from other sports. The key is getting kids to play rugby league in the US.
“We have lots of young talented athletes who are progressing along rapidly in their development as rugby league players.”
People across the world should at least try and watch a game of the California Rugby League competition. Spreading awareness will give these teams and organisers a great boost.
“All games of the competition will be on our California Rugby League Facebook and Youtube pages to watch for free. There is also other content like player profiles, match previews and general videos to get immersed in.”
It’s a great sign that rugby league has become slightly more globalised, however, there is still so much more potential to grow. The product is amazing, so spreading the word and doing our bit to help grow the sport goes a long way.
The next game will be live-streamed on the 10th of July with the San Diego Barracudas playing the Los Angeles Savage.