By Brian Lowe, Date: 25/11/19 (Photo Credit Karl Schweinfurth)

Continuing our look at what lies ahead for rugby league in the USA in 2019, we turn the spotlight on one of the more proactive club administrators in the domestic competition in this country.

Curtis Goddard is the founder and one of the main driving forces behind the Southwest Florida Copperheads, a team that had its inaugural season in the Southeastern Rugby League (SERL) Conference in 2018.

One of the things that makes him stand out is that instead of thinking only about his own team, Goddard has a view of rugby league from 30,000 feet up.

Perhaps one of his boldest suggestions to date is the introduction of a two-referee system to the American game.

“I would like to discuss having a two-referee system,” he says. “In Australia, the second referee was behind the offensive ruck and can be in a better position to learn on the job before moving into the head referee position.

“They would also have a better idea of what it will take fitness wise. Moving from touch judge out to the middle is just too much of a jump.”

Goddard also believes there needs to be a more clear-cut process on how to bring on new referees in the US.

“I had several people interested in learning how to become a referee last year that have never done it before and wanted to know where to begin and what to learn,” he continues.

“This should be published right on the USA Rugby League website on ‘how to become a ref’ and there should be a private Facebook group for all USARL referees (interested, active, alumni and mentors) attached to the USARL Facebook page. Then they can also watch our games we have recorded, and peer review themselves and score their performances.

“The head referee said that we need more referees and we need more 9s tournaments to get them experience to certify them.”

In line with that, Goddard suggested a Beerfoot club 7s/9s tournament be held on the first weekend of August in Ft Myers, Florida, however, other South Conference clubs aren’t in favor of the suggestion.

In the bigger picture, he is also an advocate of a proposed grant for first-year teams. If a club has 26 registered players by the first game of the season, it will get $1000 from USARL to help seed the new club. That proposal was adopted at the USARL LLC annual general meeting.

Goddard has other items on his to-do list as well, including providing incentives to clubs to expand into other age groups and the women’s game and understanding new sports betting laws that come into effect in America this year and how USARL can monetize the opportunity.

On top of that, he also believes there should be a bid process for hosting national team games, championships, and 9s tournaments.

“Lee County Sports development will pay to offset event costs if I can show them how many heads will be put in beds,” adds Goddard.

However, that idea didn’t make the agenda at the USARL LLC annual general meeting, so you can be assured he will keep pursuing it.

As with any start-up team, at times the Copperheads’ first year was tough sledding, but they were committed and by the end of the season they had begun to gel as a unit. And they’re not letting up during the long offseason.

Goddard, who also plays while running the club, says one of the main focuses is raising money for the 2019 season. To that end he says one of his minority owners has re-committed to housing their imports, a local business has committed to providing them cash work, while another minority owner has re-committed his 1000 sponsorship.

So, as you can tell, this club administrator has a lot on his plate, but that’s to be expected when one is as passionate as he is about growing the game at the grassroots level.