As unlikely as it sounds, some of the revival of the Russian Rugby League administration is down to an Englishman who took up rugby league at university. Jon Christie, like many before and since, fell in love with rugby league when he went to play for Leicester University Rugby League Club on his way to a career in teaching.
On graduation, Jon continued his rugby league career at Nottingham Outlaws before taking up a teaching position in Hong Kong. Obviously, with the determination of a pioneer, Jon immediately sought out the rugby league community and even got to represent Hong Kong residents against a Philippines development team.
Now working at an international school in Moscow, Jon continued his calling of finding and promoting rugby league in new territories. Jon started playing at CSKA but made the switch to Lokomotiv when hist first choice concentrated more on rugby union.
Having been captured by the Russian clubs who ventured into the Rugby League Challenge Cup in the early 2000s, it became obvious that rugby league could be very strong in Russia but the challenges it faces are huge and include, geography, government recognition, the weather and competition from other sports. However, undeterred, Jon has joined the board of the Association of Russian Rugby League Clubs and is working alongside his colleagues and RLEF Regional Manager, Jovan Vojosevic to re-start the engine of what could be a huge rugby league powerhouse.
They are looking externally for inspiration and identify Serbia as a role model for their programme. Together, Russia and Serbia can be a force to be reckoned with in the Balkans region. Jon also looks back to Nottingham Outlaws for inspiration too – a strong club, in a developing area who have had setbacks but keep re-building and growing to be a positive and dominant force in the region.
Commenting upon his mission, Jon said;
“I remember seeing Locomotive Moscow represent Russia in the Challenge Cup. I am very honoured to now play for a club with such a rich history. My aim now within Russian Rugby League is to help the sport reach its huge potential. By creating a successful domestic competition and a national team the Russian public can be proud of.”