Thailand Rugby League
Thailand Rugby League

By Richard Cowley, Date: 24/6/14

Like all things in rugby league nothing is as simple as it seems. There are currently two separate bodies flying the flag for Rugby League in Thailand. RLP does not take sides and will report updates from both nations as they come to hand. This article by RLP is the latest from the TRL.

On the 18th of October the Thailand Rugby League are planning to make history with the commencement of the first senior domestic rugby league competition in Asia.

The first round will see a Double Header take place in Bangkok. In the first match the Asoke Bangkok Eels will take on the Lat Phrao Bangkok Bulldogs. The second match will see the Samut Prakan Roosters will go head to head with the Pattaya Sharks.

The competition consists of 4 teams, 3 based in Greater Bangkok and one team in Pattaya. There will be 6 games played before the final series commences in November which will take see the duration of the competition run over 9 weeks. The Grand Final is in Bangkok on December 13.

Thailand Rugby League Chairman, Shannon Crane has the mammoth task of making it all come together. Crane has also been working to cater for the increased interest in Rugby League in Thailand with planned expansion will be on the cards in 2015.

“We have Chiang Mai and Phuket entering the league in 2015 and if the interest levels are as expected in the Thai capital a further two sides will be added, one in Greater Bangkok and a second Pattaya based team for 2015. We are already looking at running a second tier league from the halfway point of this year’s competition. With player numbers already exceeding the 17 players per team per week we will be looking to create a feeder side to each team so the players not selected for the 17 each week can get game time in a pseudo reserve grade game before the main fixture.”

Crane explains how important the new domestic league is to the game in Thailand. “The domestic league is the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing the game in the Kingdom. We have been running coaching clinics for school boy aged kids in Central Thailand in Bangkok and Pattaya, Chiang Mai in the north and Phuket in the south since 2012.”

“We had to postpone our 5 week University League due to the political instability affecting mostly the Bangkok area but the domestic league is where we get 17-35 year old Thai players working under rugby league coaches with some Australian, New Zealand and European based players helping to bring the Thai player’s skill along. This only helps ensure our national team gets stronger.”

In what is an exciting time for rugby league in Thailand, Norway will be travelling to Bangkok to take on the Thailand national rugby league team on the 12th October 2014 (6 days before the local competition commences).

When asked why Thailand looked to Europe to find their next opponent in Norway Crane provided the following explanation.

“ We sat down with numerous member countries since our game against Greece last October to discuss our 2014 schedule. With the league commencing in 2014 we felt the best thing was to select one team for this year and once the league was done look at Internationals in March/April and October 2015. December 2015 may also be added to the calendar.”

“We had Norway, Sweden, Russia and Malta in discussions for this year. In the end due to their calendar and the fact they were looking to send a predominately home grown based team to Bangkok, Norway were the best fit.”

“There was a lot of discussion last year around the Greece game saying that it was Greece A. The team sent to Bangkok by Greece had former NRL players and current QLD/NSW Cup players. There was not a player on that team that wasn’t on a paid contract somewhere. We had a team of amateur players, some of which playing their first ever game of rugby league and in the end we had some work related withdrawals and played this 20 man Greece team with 14 players. We had some Thai Heritage players from Australia but the reality is we put the first ever full Thai team on the field and they ended up being beaten 90-0 by a team of professional players.”

“Half that Greek squad continued to Athens and the other half returned to Australia. The Greece team beat a full Hungary team by the same score the next week, with half amateur players and the addition of Braith Anasta.”

“It really highlights what we knew from the beginning in that the Thailand spirit inside these players will see them keep coming and coming until the end. The Greek team spoke glowingly of the performance of our players. Norway we feel will be a great player mix to see how far we have come.”

With a big 2014 on the cards and 2015 looking even brighter. The TRL are currently working towards meeting the RLIF’s accreditation.

The RLIF accreditation starts with Observer , Affiliated and then Full Member status. It takes many years of stable local competition and growth amongst other things before full member status is granted by the RLIF. Rugby League Planet wishes the TRL all the best with their goal of one day becoming a Full Member nation.