The inaugural Americas North Championships are due to open this weekend in Jamaica with the host country, the United States and Canada squaring off in the International Rugby League’s (IRL) newly established tournament for women’s teams.
The first game of the series is set for this Saturday, September 23, with the Jamaica Women Reggae Warriors facing the USA Hawks in Kingston. The Canada Ravens open their campaign on Monday, September 25, when they play the Americans.
The Americas North Championships are part of the IRL’s refresh of the international calendar which was prompted by France pulling out as host of the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
The Canadians last played during the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in the UK last year and 12 players will be making their return in Jamaica including Maddy Aberg, Rachel Choboter, Dani Franada, Gabby Hindley, Brittany Jones, Sarah Maguire, Lauren Mueller, Ada Okonkwo-Dapper, Megan Pakulis, Liz Steele, Natalie Tam and Petra Woods.
Ravens’ head coach Mike Castle says Felelia Angeles, who played at the 2017 World Cup and Candace Scholten who made her debut against the USA last year are also in the squad, along with debutants Erin Gawley, Tamisha Toussaint, Savannah Bacchus and Ale Lewis who all performed well at the Canadian National Women’s Championship in July.
He says they’ve also added experienced players Matilda Butler from the Sheffield Eagles and Chantelle Crowl from St Helens.
The players have been training with their provincial squads and are due to go into camp in Toronto on Wednesday, before flying to Kingston on Sunday.
“This initiative allows the three competing teams to get some regular international competition which is crucial if we want to keep improving and growing as a game,” Castle tells Rugby League Planet.
“I love the format as it means we get two international games in the same trip, which is far more practical when we’re all largely self-funded. I would love to see this competition expand further to include Brazil and other countries across the Americas.”
He says he thinks the experience gained from the World Cup is a big bonus for Canada and it should serve them well in this tournament.
“Playing against established rugby league nations like England and PNG taught us a lot about how to play the game, so hopefully we can capitalise on that experience,” says Castle.
“If we can build off of our experience and learn to control possession a bit better than we did at the World Cup, I’m confident we can perform well. However, I know Ady (Cooney) and his team have been doing an awesome job in the US and have held several camps, so they will be well prepared and keen to knock us off our perch.
“Jamaica are a bit unknown with this being their first international tournament, but being the home team probably gives them an advantage too.”
Canadian players to watch include Meg Pakulis, who made the team of the tournament at the WRLWC, as well as Lauren Mueller, who had a strong year with the London Broncos winning the Super League South Competition in the UK and Chantelle Crowl, a former England international who recently won the Challenge Cup with St Helens.
Canada Ravens squad:
Maddy Aberg (Dublin City Exiles), Fedelia Angeles (Ontario Ospreys), Savannah Bacchus (BC Storm), Matilda Butler (Sheffield Eagles-UK), Rachel Choboter (Currumbin Eagles-Australia), Chantelle Crowl (St Helens-UK), Dani Franada (Dublin City Exiles), Erin Gawley (Ontario Ospreys), Gabrielle Hindley (BC Storm) (Co-Captain), Brittany Jones (Alberta Storm), Ale Lewis (Alberta Storm), Sarah Maguire (Alberta Broncos), Lauren Mueller (London Broncos-UK), Ada Okonkwo-Dappa (BC Storm), Megan Pakulis (Ontario Ospreys) (Co-Captain), Ferris Sandboe (St George Dragons-Australia), Candace Scholten (Ontario Ospreys), Liz Steele (Alberta Broncos), Natalie Tam (Ontario Ospreys), Tamisha Toussaint (Ontario Ospreys), Petra Woods (Ontario Ospreys)
Americas North Championships schedule:
Game 1: Jamaica vs USA, University of West Indies, Kingston – Saturday, September 23
Game 2: USA vs Canada, University of West Indies, Kingston – Monday, September 25
Game 3: Jamaica vs Canada, University of West Indies, Kingston – Wednesday, September 27