THAILAND RUGBY LEAGUE NATION OVERVIEW (Thailand Rugby League Association)
Note: There are two bodies currently developing the game in Thailand. The Thailand Rugby League and the Thailand Rugby League Association. This page refers to the Thailand Rugby League Association.
Information on this page was updated – 23/7/2014
Foundation Year – 2012
International Team – Thailand Stars
Top level domestic competition – 4 team domestic competition is due to start in 2015.
Thailand’s humble beginnings as a Rugby League nation began on October 21 2012 in Bangkok when the Philippines Tamaraws arrived to contest the inaugural Rugby League Asia Cup.
Although Japan had been playing Rugby League for several years, the Asia Cup clash was the first international match played in Asia and the first between two Asian countries.
The match was controlled by NRL Referee Gavin Badger and wife Kasey which attracted widespread coverage of the game as they became the first husband and wife combination to officiate an international in any sport.
Philippines, containing some notable NRL players in Kevin Gordon and Matt Srama plus a host of other semi-professional players had too much class and experience for the Thailand Stars winning 86-0. Whilst the scoreboard reflected a landslide defeat, the brave Thailand team which contained several first time League players had taken the first courageous steps. Rugby League had arrived in the Kingdom of Thailand.
With a return Asia Cup game scheduled for the exact same day the following year in the Philippines, Thailand Stars officials set about developing the game in Thailand.
Southerners in Bangkok became the first club in Thailand when Rugby League got accepted to be part of their sports program joining Rugby Union, Cricket and Netball.
A joint venture between a Phuket business owner and an Australian club side enabled the Phuket Cobras to be formed. The Cobras then recruited a number of Thai Nationals to play and join the ex-pats and tourists from Australia.
The two new clubs then played the first domestic game of Rugby League in Thailand when they clashed in a friendly on October 13 2012 at Patana Sports Complex in Bangkok. Phuket Cobras were victorious winning 26-14.
Following this match five Thai Nationals, three from Cobras and two from Southerners impressed in their first ever games of Rugby League and were added to the Thailand Stars squad to tour the Philippines.
Meanwhile, a rival organisation was also attempting to develop the game in Thailand. Whilst both groups had the right intentions and were on friendly terms, an agreement could not be reached in regards to the role of a not for profit association reporting to a privately owned company.
The rival organisation had arranged a match against Greece A who were on their way to Hungary to play their first full international. Five Thailand Stars players were encouraged to play and on October 12 the match went ahead with Greece A proving too strong winning 90-0 at King Mongkut University in Bangkok.
A week later, the Thailand Stars squad flew out on their historic tour to Philippines.
The first ever Rugby League international in Philippines was played on October 21 2013 at Philippine Merchant Marine Academy Sports Complex in San Narciso, Zambales. The second Asia Cup match was played in front of an enthusiastic crowd of just under 2,000 people in which the whole town supported the arrival of a game they had never seen before.
Despite Thailand taking an early lead, the Tamaraws were again too good for the Stars winning 46-10 with NRL player Andrew Everingham scoring two tries. The Stars showed great improvement from the first encounter.
Following the events of October, the Australian summer proved to be a busy time for the Thailand Stars movement. Five Sydney based Thai heritage players that played in the Greece A game and the Thailand Stars players that also played in that game pledged they would stick together. Several other Thai heritage players living in Australia had also made contact and requested to join the Thailand Stars.
Japanese officials travelled to Sydney to meet with Thailand Stars officials and a game preceding the Cabramatta International Nines was organised and announced.
Thailand Stars created a scholarship program by giving three Thailand based players an opportunity to travel to Australia to further their Rugby League experience and to play against Japan and in the Cabramatta Nines.
On January 30 2014, Thailand Stars and Japan clashed at Sydney’s Redfern Oval in an all Asian affair. Thailand Stars team now consisted of a full squad of Thai Heritage and Nationals. A large contingent of Sydney’s Thai community including the Thai Consular was on hand to see Thailand record their first ever international victory with a 46-10 defeat of Japan.
The match was also a significant day for Rugby League as the three match officials were all female which had never happened before at international level. This attracted television crews from Channel Ten and some positive exposure for Rugby League.
Two days later, the Stars backed up to represent Thailand for the first time at the Cabramatta International Nines. In one of the upsets of the tournament Thailand defeated the more experienced Niue 24-20 in their opening game. The other pool matches saw some hard fought defeats to Malta (22-4) and Philippines 2 (12-8).
With injuries and fatigue a major factor the Stars were defeated in their two remaining games to Philippines Development (16-14) and Niue Development (30-4). A major positive was the performances of the three scholarship players who also pledged to play a role in helping grow Rugby League in Thailand.
June 1 2014 saw the Thailand Stars play a friendly against fellow new comers Latin America Heat at Sydney’s Windsor Sports Complex. With the popularity of the Stars further expanding, the opportunity arose to give nine new players a game.
In a match played in extremely wet and difficult conditions there was nothing between the two teams at the finish with a 16all draw the result.
In just two years the Thailand Stars has played four internationals, one Cabramatta nines, made one tour to the Philippines, awarded three scholarships and has given fifty two players the opportunity to play international Rugby League.
With the Australian Rugby League Development organising tournaments in the under 16’s and 18’s age groups for smaller nations, Thailand plans to enter teams as well as an Under 23’s team to play various opponents to gain further experience. The same structure will be set up in Thailand by the Stars’ High Performance Manager Stephen Smallbone.
A four team domestic competition in a unique format will commence in 2015.
October 2014 will see the inaugural TRLA Phuket International Nines tournament hosted by the Phuket Cobras at the world class Thanyapura Sports & Leisure Centre. We are hoping to build the tournament up and with representation from both hemispheres to make the tournament a highlight for touring clubs and smaller nations.
We are also planning a development tour of the North East Thailand region and conducting coaching clinics within schools.
The TRLA will be proactive in providing opportunities to Thai Nationals with a scholarship and study/work program and a tour at least once per year. Initial planning has already begun for a North American tour.
We are interested in forming relationships with other Asia – Pacific nations and playing games at development level.
We are also strongly committed to Rugby League’s Asia Cup and support the initiatives for the growth of the tournament.
As Thailand is centrally located between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, Thailand Rugby League would love the opportunity to host representative fixtures such as Combined University or Student Rugby League Internationals, Combined Services (Army, Air Force, Navy, Police) internationals or tournaments as well as Masters and Women’s events. Amateur club teams wishing to play post or pre season matches are also welcome.
It is crucial that other nations and clubs support the growth of Rugby League in Thailand by touring to enable the momentum to continue. We can offer matches in exotic locations on first class venues with excellent accommodation available at all price levels. We can provide a social experience like no other which can benefit teams trying to build and develop a strong culture within their own group and at the same time assisting the development of Rugby League as a global sport.
If there are any associations or clubs who are interested in any tours, one off games or competitions in Thailand you are welcome to contact us at the following:
On Facebook – Thailand Stars RL
By Email – [email protected]
Thailand Rugby League Association is a not for profit organisation.
THAILAND INTERNATIONAL RUGBY LEAGUE RESULTS
2014 Rugby League Results
Jun 1st Thailand Stars 16 vs Latin America 16, Sydney (Thailand Rugby League Association)
Jan 30th Thailand Stars 46 vs Japan 10, Sydney (Thailand Rugby League Association)
2013 Rugby League Results
Oct 21st Philippines 46 – Thailand Stars 10, San Narciso (Asia Cup) (Thailand Rugby League Association)
Oct 12th Thailand 0 v Greece A 90, Bangkok (Thailand Rugby League)
2012 Rugby League Results
Oct 21st Philippines 86 – Thailand 0 (Asia Cup) (Thailand Rugby League Association)