USARL Season Preview

A new dawn of Rugby League begins this weekend as Season 1 of the USARL officially kicks off with eight of the countries best teams battling it out for the 2011 inaugural championship.
USARL Season Preview

For the past six months these clubs have been busy organizing sponsors, players, training sessions and travel schedules. For an insight as to which of the teams will take home the silverware, the league sent their super sleuth to poke around each club and see what's behind the curtain.  The results may surprise some and likely to upset more than a few.

2011 Season Prediction:

Jacksonville Axemen1st Place - Jacksonville Axemen
The fantastic four led by Daryl "Spinner" Howland have done a tremendous job in the South raising the standards of club rugby league in the US.  With solid sponsors, a playing roster rich in talent and numbers bolstered further by 3 new feeder clubs, the Axemen have developed a product that is worthy of the thousands of adoring fans that have bought into their brand of football.  Likely to go undefeated this year putting them in the drivers seat for the finals.
Key Matches both away games in Round 1 against the Warriors and Round 4 against Philadelphia.

New Haven Warriors2nd Place - New Haven Warriors
Last years runners up are still seething about their second half collapse in the championship final.  Determined not to repeat their efforts, the Warriors have recruited well along with some local talent that's now matured and ready for prime time.  Tough to beat up front, the Warriors are only likely to be tested late in the game when the cracks start to appear out wide.  Watch for local Prop Wesley Haughton in only his second year of League.
Key Match in Round 1 against the Axemen.

Washington D.C. Slayers3rd Place - DC Slayers
One of the older teams in the league, the Slayers are breathing fire under the formation of the USARL and are now backed by solid sponsorship and playing numbers.   Arguably the easiest of all the teams schedules, the Slayers will also relish three back-to-back home games putting the nations capital into the drivers seat during the business end of the season.  Watch NSW pairing of Aaron Cook and Troy Smith to light up the halves and cultivate a feeding frenzy out wide.
Key match in Round 4 against New Haven.

Philadelphia Fight4th Place - Philadelphia Fight
Resurrected from rugby league's graveyard years ago, the Fight now led by Ryan McGough are the epitome of the Philadelphia "never say die" attitude.  With a terrific home venue, cheerleaders and a growing fan base, the Fight are quickly becoming the next textbook for how to build a club with real brand recognition.  While the Fight have recruited well, a grueling schedule with some tough back to back away games may see them slip quickly down the ladder.  In between Vixen dances, keep an eye on the return hooker Ryan Douglas, their new halfback Joel Weeks and former Bulls Kevin Wiggins.
Key Matches are Axemen, Slayers & Warriors - three tough games in a row.

Boston Thirteens5th Place - Boston 13s
Mikhael Shammas and Jonathan Gay have done a great job of spreading the game up north ultimately paving the way for the RI Rebellion.  Often heard humming Frank Sinatra's "My Way", Shammas must be credited with creating a franchise of local players and building within.  Likely to win a few home games, the 13s will be tested away where their numbers will be stretched thin by sharing the depth with newcomers Oneida.
Key Match Round 5 against RIR to determine 5th or 6th place.

Rhode Island Rebellion6th - Rhode Island Rebellion
By far the league's best dressed for success, the Rebellion make up in attitude where they lack in height.  Deep numbers with bucket loads of talent, the young speedsters surprised many at 9s by almost taking out the Warriors in the semi-final that was the tournament highlight.  While a bruising early schedule may test their tickers and silence their fog horns, the purple rat pack make sneak in a win and surprise many by sneaking into the finals.
Key Match in Round 3 against Slayers.

NJ Turnpike Titans7th - NJ Turnpike Titans
USARL's funny man Paul Silverman should be commended for his efforts getting the Titans off the ground and into shape since the launch of the USARL.  Choosing location carefully while keeping the door open for its Knightly brethren, the boys from Jersey will be packed with talent from powerhouse Rutgers and Old Blue clubs that are keen to learn the 13 man code.  All eyes will be on UK coach Stuart Harvey and how he handles the transitioning of talented players such as Chris Otundo and Jim Roblin to ways of playing the ball.  An early win will go a long way to cementing this club long term.
Key Match in Round 2 against the Slayers.

Oneida F.C.8th – Oneida FC
The USA’s oldest Rugby Club has been reborn under the umbrella of the USA Rugby League which now puts two teams in Boston, a move that will expand playing pools and lower operating costs.  Oneida was another surprise packet in last weeks 9s and are out to convince many that they are more than making up the numbers.
Key Matches:  First three rounds and everything thereafter

Good luck to all teams this season!