Dead Pelicans v Axemen (Florida Sports Wire)

Photo Credit: Florida Sports Wire

As the 2024 season gets closer to a start in the United States, as was the case in 2023, there are some major differences on the horizon.

In this, Part 2 of our two-part series, Rugby League Planet (RLP), previews the prospective scenario on the west coast.

In keeping with its push for changes to the “organizational and competitive structure” for the domestic club competition, the US Association of Rugby League (USARL) has announced that after just one season, the Utah Rugby League Association (URLA) has broken away from the Pacific Coast Rugby League (PCRL) to control its own division.

In its official statement, the USARL said, “The URLA will now operate as an independent entity distinct from the PCRL, managing its competition in accordance with USARL standards.”

The plan is for the winners of the Utah and PCRL conferences to play each other for the Western Championship, with the winner then taking on the team that wins the Eastern Championship in the 2024 national championship game.

That game is due to be played out west this year, as the 2023 national championship was held in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Pacific Coast Rugby League, which is going into its second year, will look a little different in 2024 with the addition of several teams in the offseason.

A brand-new team is the West Los Angeles Jackrabbits, which will be joining the competition as an affiliate member, which means it won’t be eligible to play for the PCRL title. The pre-existing southern California teams are the LA Mongrel, LA Bandidos and San Diego Barracudas.

Also coming on board with PCRL are two teams in northern California that previously competed in Championship Rugby League (CRL), formerly the California Rugby League. The Sacramento Immortals and East Palo Alto Razorbacks have defected from the CRL to join PCRL.

They will play alongside the reigning USARL champion Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans in the north of the state.

As RLP reported last year, there were plans to set up a new Oregon Rugby League (ORL) with the goal of joining PCRL this year, however, it hasn’t happened yet.

The main driving force behind the establishment of ORL, Nick Sarabia, says he has since formed a club, the Willamette Valley Haybalers RLFC in Corvallis, which is intended to draw players from both Benton and Linn counties in the Beaver State.

He says that while it’s taking some time to get established, he is encouraged by the response he has been getting from folks in his state.

“We currently have 9-10 players and have been having loose practices that range between 45 minutes to an hour long once a week,” he tells RLP.

“Pretty positive from the community, mostly asking where we will play and the excitement to come watch.”

Sarabia goes on to say that he’s pleased to have been getting help from PCRL, and the plan is still to have an association with the league.

“For the time being, having Oregon Rugby League as a sub-conference and governing body under the PCRL is still the plan, as it is with the Haybalers, hopefully for 2025 with a steady amount of matches,” he adds. “But the goal is to get to the status Utah just made with the intention to continue to have a meaningful relationship with PCRL and all members.”

While the PCRL and Utah, and eventually ORL, come under the USARL’s umbrella, there is another competition on the West Coast that continues to remain independent of the national governing body. Championship Rugby League will be going into its second season, although prior to that, it had been in existence since 2019 as the California Rugby League.

CRL is planning to run a higher-tier competition to start either in the fall of this year or in 2025.

Some realignment is needed in the meantime, however, as several teams that were part of CRL’s competition in 2023 will not be in the new competition. The San Francisco Savage, North Bay Warriors, Sacramento Young Tigers and Las Vegas Islanders reportedly are no longer playing.

The USARL 2024 regular season is set to kick off at the beginning of June and run until the end of July. The postseason will then be played in August.

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.