Very often at this time of year we start our reviews of the seasons that have played out in the Americas, but because of COVID-19 there were not any domestic seasons to look back on this year.

As we all know, the destructive global pandemic put paid to any rugby league in the United States, Canada, Jamaica and Chile in 2020.

However, as we are now into the official start of the holiday season, it is also the time of year when national, and to a lesser extent, international governing bodies begin to plan ahead for their next seasons.

The USA Rugby League (USARL) LLC is one such NGB that is doing so. The LLC, which is a separate entity to USARL Inc that oversees the USA Hawks’ international program, is the governing body for the national clubs competition in America.

It typically holds its annual general meeting (AGM) in January and while it has set a date for its 2021 meeting, it will most definitely be like no other AGM we have seen.

It will more than likely be a case of some club representatives turning up in person with others attending virtually.

“As of now we are taking all necessary steps for a 2021 season,” USARL LLC chair Danny Hanson told Rugby League Planet.

“The next AGM will be January 23, 2021. Atlanta has offered to host. Some may go in person and some may be virtual.

“We will have reps from Men’s, Women’s, and Masters.

“The meeting will be open to anyone that wishes to attend, and I’ll be putting out a social media notice in December.”

Atlanta Rhinos owner/captain and USA Hawks domestic skipper Nick Newlin said while his club has offered to host the meeting, they are not quite sure what to expect as it will largely depend on what’s going on with the coronavirus at the time.

“Most likely virtually, but I know a group of us is at least trying to get together in person,” he said.

As Hanson pointed out, the LLC is figuring on playing a season stateside in 2021, although again that will depend on the situation with the pandemic and whether state governors approve a COVID safe return to play by next summer.

Clubs in both the North and South Conferences contacted by RLP, as well as teams in other parts of the country that are not officially part of the LLC, have all indicated that they are definitely planning for a domestic season in 2021.

One such team is the Tampa Mayhem in Florida.

“We are optimistic about playing the 2021 season,” Tampa Mayhem Rugby League CEO Billy Neilson said.

“Our first games usually aren’t until the end of May, beginning of June, so it gives us a few more months.”

Among other things, the LLC’s AGMs are usually platforms used to discuss issues ranging from any proposed changes to rules or refereeing and what to do regarding standings if a team forfeits a game during the season, to whether there will be any new teams joining the competition or existing teams closing up shop.

Aside from those matters though, there are several other peripheral things that may or may not come up at the January meeting.

For instance, the Midwest Rugby League (MWRL) has for the past few seasons been in discussions with the LLC about the possibility of forming a new expansion conference. 2020 had been earmarked as a year when that might have happened, however, due to COVID-19 it did not eventuate.

At the same time, teams have popped up in places like Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio with thoughts of potentially joining the Chicago Stockyarders and possibly Canadian provincial team Ontario in forming a new Midwest Conference, although the pandemic curtailed any further exploration of that option.

Plus, there is also the California Rugby League (CRL) which kicked off one year ago with its first exhibition games on the west coast.

That independent league, too, ran into a coronavirus brick wall in 2020 which stymied it at every turn.

However, as we have previously reported, the people driving all these teams and leagues are determined to achieve their goals, so perhaps they may come up for discussion at the Atlanta AGM.

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.