Jacksonville Axemen v Tampa


By Brian Lowe, Date: 21/1/19

As we reported earlier this month, a new team is expected to join the USA Rugby League (USARL) clubs competition for the 2019 season.

The Lakeland Renegades, while not officially approved as yet, would join the USARL’s South Conference if they check all the boxes with the USARL LLC board.

It’s understood that the proposed new club has some well-established local businessmen as its backers. USA Hawk and Tampa Mayhem player/coach David Ulch is expected to take on the role of head coach should the Renegades get the board’s approval.

It’s anticipated that a final decision on the Florida-based team will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.

One of the bigger rule changes approved at last week’s USARL LLC annual general meeting will see an alteration to gameday rosters for clubs. Teams will now be able to name 20-man lineups.

Another rule change approved by the LLC board is that all kickoffs in which the ball inadvertently hits the uprights will result in the ball being considered live. Previously, if the ball hit the posts and bounced off them it was ruled dead if a team was using American football goalposts.

In other AGM developments, the Midwest Rugby League (MWRL) will again have USARL observer status this year, but will likely be given full membership, potentially in 2020, when it is deemed to have enough teams to play an equitable schedule.

“It’s early stages right now,” says MWRL CEO Mike Featherstone. “Discussions are ongoing.”

The MWRL has been very vocal about its desire to re-establish a Midwest Conference next season, and as such, has scheduled a series of exhibition games this summer against start-up teams from Ohio cities Columbus and Cleveland, as well as Canadian provincial side Ontario.

There is also a possibility of another new club forming in Milwaukee that could be added to the schedule of exhibition matches.

And as far as what the future might hold for the Ontario Rugby League (ORL) is concerned, joining the Midwest Conference appears to be the preferred choice.

“We aren’t applying to the USARL this year,” says ORL president Carolyn Ritchie.

“Trying to work on getting another team into our domestic (competition) first. We are very much interested in the possibility of joining the MWRL next year.”

Ontario submitted an expression of interest to play in the USARL clubs competition last season, but it wasn’t successful.

At the time, the LLC board said it had thoroughly reviewed and discussed the ORL bid and decided not to expand.

In other news, USA Hawks forward Joe Eichner has reportedly signed with the Cairns Brothers rugby league club for the 2019 season. Brothers play in the Cairns district rugby league competition in far north Queensland.

Eichner completed his inaugural season in Australia in 2018 with the Junee Diesels in the Group 9 competition in New South Wales.

He started his playing career with the Jacksonville Axemen.