Written by Stuart McLennan
United States President-elect Joe Biden is a resident of Wilmington, Delaware and the Du Pont family made their fortune back in the mid-nineteenth century through a gunpowder business in that part of the world.
The Delaware Black Foxes rugby league club has been operating on the east coast of the USA since 2015 and enjoying success in their own right.
Founded by Bjorn Haglid and Ian Ferguson, the Black Foxes have made the playoffs three out of the past five years since their inaugural season. They’ve had several players selected to the North All-Star team and USA Hawks squad.
Haglid and Ferguson are still actively involved with the club. Haglid runs the business and financial elements and Ferguson takes an active role in the managerial aspects of the club in addition to captaining the squad as a player.
Delaware has approximately 30 players. Each year the number grows as the club recruits talent from Delaware and the surrounding area.
The majority of players come from a rugby union background however there are several crossover athletes from American football, soccer, wrestling, and lacrosse.
The vision is to continue developing domestic talent with the goal of winning a Grand Final on the men’s side. The club is looking to expand to incorporate a women’s side (Vixens) and a youth team within the next five years.
With the USARL 2020 season suspended due to the pandemic, preparations are underway for a successful season in 2021 at Delaware.
To achieve the premiership goal the Black Foxes have recruited Australian coach Liam Mulhall with a player resume that includes the Ipswich Jets, Brisbane Norths and a stint with Aston Bulls in the former AMNRL competition where he was leading point scorer with 14 tries and 10 goals. Coaching wise Mulhall has recently been soaking up knowledge as an assistant coach at Wynnum-Manly who play in the highly competitive Queensland Cup competition.
The coach will bring the experience and some talent from the Brisbane based club to the Black Foxes.
“I’ve recruited well with a few Wynnum-Manly players joining me next year that are gun players and I’m positive we should be fighting for the title in 2021,” the coach confidently stated to Everything Rugby League.
“I would love to stay on and coach further and hopefully one day coach the USA ( men or women’s) team in a World Cup.
“I just want to grow the game I have loved and played for 30 years. I know if we get it to one per cent following it’s already bigger than Australia and NZ combined. I’m currently doing my Level 2 coaching and want to get to Level 3 so I can coach NRL.
“Hopefully by then the USA is professional and that would mean I have done my job with the help of Garen, Ian and Bjorn.”
Mulhall explains that neighbouring club Philadelphia Fight has been overtaken by the NOVA Eagles as Delaware’s biggest rival.
“Initially Philadelphia may have been considered Delaware’s biggest rival due to geographical proximity and several Black Foxes, including Ferguson, being former Fight players before leaving to start the Black Foxes in 2015.
“That being said, many would argue that Delaware’s biggest rival would now be Northern Virginia due to the fact that the two teams tend to match up well against each other and several times playoff seeding has been decided based on their tightly contested head to head matches.
“In fact, Delaware’s first playoff appearance was against NOVA which Delaware won by a late try back in 2016 and seemed to spark the rivalry that continues to this day.”
Mulhall has some advice and first hand experience to pass on to any young American thinking of giving rugby league a crack.
“The networks, comradery and friendships I have formed from the time I started playing till now is second to none. The game is growing and people are realising the skills and the agility needed can be directly correlated to NFL, rugby and lacrosse and I feel the transition would be easy.
“It’s a tough and a very physical game but without the padding and helmets I believe it’s a game that has more passion and watching it keeps you on the edge of your seats with the hits, line breaks and tries.”
Expect a strong campaign and plenty of fireworks from the Delaware Black Foxes in 2021.