USA South Conf Darryl Wells

Photo Credit: Darryl Wells, SWFSNP

The inaugural Naples Nines tournament in Florida has been declared a success.

The day-long tournament was hosted by USA Ruby League (USARL) club the Southwest Florida Copperheads last weekend at the new Pacific Coast Sports Complex in Naples.

The men’s title was won by the USA Exiles, who beat the Jamaica Exodus 10-6 in the final. The women’s title was taken out by the Carolina Storm, who topped the Jax Axe Women from Jacksonville 16-4.

Both winning teams have qualified for the London 9s tournament in 2023.

Copperheads CEO Curtis Goddard says it was the first of what he hopes will become an annual event.

“The Exiles team, which was built by our assistant coach Colin O’Dell, consisted primarily of our extra guys, a couple of guys from the UK that came over to play in the tournament, and a handful of people from up north,” Goddard tells Rugby League Planet.

“Now we start fundraising and putting butts in seats out at Paradise Coast Sports Complex so our guys can make the trip and go try our hand against professional players.”

The tournament was the precursor to the USARL men’s club competition, which is due to start in June.

The South Conference consists of the Copperheads, defending national champions Tampa Mayhem, Jacksonville Axemen and the South Florida Speed, who will be competing in just their second season.

The North Conference is taking on a different look this year with 2021 national championship finalists Delaware Black Foxes, Philadelphia Fight, Brooklyn Kings and Boston 13s expecting to play both versions of the game during what would normally be their regular season.

Black Foxes coach Ian Ferguson says the plan for the summer is for Delaware to host a 9s tournament on June 25, which will be followed by another event in New York in July where teams will play regular 13s matches.

“Obviously there’ve been some obstacles we’ve had to overcome the past couple of seasons but our goal is just to get everyone back on track here so we can provide the best environment and competition for our clubs and players in the North and then proceed from there,” he says.

The USARL domestic playoffs are scheduled for August.

In September, the Copperheads are planning to host the touring Coogee Wombats from Australia.

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.