California Rugby League prepares for December 7 blast-off

Rugby league's latest foray into California will enjoy a gala launch next month.
California Rugby League prepares for December 7 blast-off


CALIFORNIA Rugby League organiser Tom Stevenson says next month’s San Francisco v Los Angeles opening match will be the precursor for a four-team competition in the Golden State next year.

The former White Plains Wombats import has played the key role in assembling the LA Mongrel and SF Savage teams for the December 7 encounter at Boxer Stadium in the Bay Area. At one point Hawks coach Sean Rutgerson was going to be involved but Stevenson says he will now not be attending

Brisbane native Stevenson has whipped up considerable international interest in a short period of time for the match, which will feature mainly players who are completely new to rugby league.

“The plan is next year we’re going to have a four-team competition that will run September-October,” said Stevenson.

“Three teams have already been confirmed: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. There is one to be announced at some stage.

“I’ve got 80 players doing everything they can to make this work. I’ve got four coaches who are working really hard getting the players ready. There are a lot of people really excited to see it going on.

“I did what anyone who likes rugby league and lives in a place that doesn’t have it would do: I was just pursuing anyone and everyone who I thought might be interested in playing.

“I got so lucky I stumbled across a few Tongan guys. We had a few mutual friends back in Brisbane and what-not. We developed a bit of a relationship and that introduced me to their community.

“I found a few Fijian guys who tried to get a Nines going. I spoke with John Paul Basile who worked with Moore Sports, I spoke with (long serving official) Col Manners, I spoke people in the USARL, I messaged back and forth with everyone.

“I then set a goal, which was the game. It’s OK to say ‘let’s get rugby league going’ but you need something to work towards.”

The CRL has enjoyed a huge groundswell of interest domestically and internationally with strong merchandise sales and plans to stream the 3pm game live on Facebook.

Explaining his own involvement, Stevenson said: “I’m from Brisbane. I came over to play rugby league on the East Coast, for White Plains.

“It was the middle of the New York winter. (My partner) said ‘I’ve got a job offer out in Cali’ so I was like, ‘yep, let’s do it’.”

Stevenson said the CRL would have a centralised administrative system, with the governing body running the teams directly and resources being shared equally.