California Rugby League

The fledgling California Rugby League (CRL) is continuing to explore ways to bring the game to life in 2020 despite limitations brought on by the coronavirus global pandemic.

Following Rugby League Planet’s exclusive article in May, in which we broke the news that CRL was considering the possibility of taking games to Las Vegas, we can now report that the league is in discussions with city officials in the Golden State about staging a showcase game in August.

The CRL has proposed a ‘Rugby Stars’ showcase game be played in either San Francisco or Sacramento.

The two proposed venues are Boxer Stadium in San Francisco, primarily used for rugby union, and United Soccer League’s Papa Murphy’s Park in Sacramento. Final approval for either will hinge on getting the thumbs up from the California Health Department.

Regardless of where it is played, the match would feature teams from the city by the bay and the state capital.

It would be a rugby league 10s format played over 40 minutes. The teams would consist of players who took part in the CRL’s initial exhibition matches last December with the inclusion of additional players who have since put their hands up to become involved in the CRL’s proposed Rugby Stars league.

“We’re going to put together the best players from San Francisco and Sacramento,” said CRL director Tom Stevenson. “It’s going to be a 40-minute game, 10-a-side with probably five reserve players for each team.”

Each side would have two interchange players and there would be unlimited interchanges during the 40 minutes. The concept is based on a kind of hybrid league/union game with a leaning towards rugby league.

Stevenson goes on to say that in the meantime, “there are going to be a lot of tough conversations” to be had with city and state officials because of the fluctuating number of coronavirus cases being reported in California.

He says he has submitted a thorough return to play protocol.

“I’m optimistic but you’ve got to be realistic about it at the same time,” he said.

“Our intention is to show our stakeholders that what we’re proposing is plausible, that we can do it safely and that players are excited.

“If it happens this year that’s great, if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. This is something that we’re going to keep working on for America.”

The pre-COVID-19 concept was to play a series of regular season games over several weeks in different cities in California during the spring culminating in a two-week postseason and championship game.

However, since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the CRL has been forced to tweak its blueprint which would consist of a 12-week season, which would include a three-week training camp, seven-week regular season and two-week postseason.

The CRL has also opted for a hub city scenario for the entire 12 weeks with Las Vegas being the primary choice.

Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others. Brian has his own YouTube channel @brianlowe5567 where he posts his interviews for Rugby League Planet. Be sure to check it out and subscribe.