Canada Rugby League, fresh from the success of retaining the Colonial Cup over the USA – and with newly designed logos for the CRL and the Wolverines – are now looking forward to possible Rugby League World Cup qualification for the first time.
They compete against Jamaica and the USA for the right to go to Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2017 and in charge for the qualifying tournament, which will be staged in Florida in early December, is Aaron Zimmerle, a Canadian native who has coached in Queensland.
“Coaching Canada is where my culture and heritage collide,” he said as he prepares to return home.
“Being born in Surrey, British Columbia and moving to Australia aged nine wasn’t without a degree of culture shock, but rugby league was my dad’s game and it quickly became my obsession.
“From playing, to watching and studying it and now coaching at an elite level, the sport highlights the most admirable of traits – courage, teamwork and dedication.”
The recently re-constituted CRL board, which has expanded rugby league into three states – Ontario, British Columbia and now Alberta – has brought him in.
Zimmerle noted: “I cannot sing loudly enough the praises of the founding fathers of the game within Canada and applaud the commitment that people like Paul O’Keefe, Paul Buchanan, Andy Blackburn and Jamie Lester have shown in bringing Canada to the brink of World Cup qualification, and the culture that they are building.
“When I have coached the Canadian players in the Cabramatta International 9s competitions in Sydney and watch the Wolverines play, I see a group of players willing to run through a wall for each other – I am very excited to work with them.
“I hazard a guess that Canada with its background in the rugged sports of Ice Hockey and Canadian football could quite easily turn out to be an underdog with a reasonably big bite.”
In the WC2017 Qualifiers, Zimmerle will come up against Leeds Rhinos’ treble-winning coach Brian McDermott, who will coach the USA Hawks for the first time.
“I coach and teach for a living, so hopefully in my time both with the players and coaches I can challenge them to continue their development,” Zimmerle said.
“Experience and knowledge are easily shared but my personal philosophy has always been that, in the quest for excellence, we will grow beyond our limits. A World Cup awaits and I plan to do everything in my power to help get us there.
“I spend a large amount of time reviewing video and statistically analysing player performances. As a coach of 15 years I have established certain qualities and attributes that are important to me and our team.”
Zimmerle continued: “Big games are not won by looking for the big play; they will be faster and more intense than anything we have played in before. Opportunities will be less as the quality of the opposition rises.
“International Rugby League continues to slowly grow and prosper but in many cases it is due largely to the passionate dedication of individuals and small bodies.
“Like all trailblazers we must first pave a way for others to follow, and a Canadian team at the World Cup would be just another reminder that the International game deserves more recognition and support.
“The continued development of a domestic game here and the establishment of a regular international calendar will continue to challenge the players to consistently perform at a higher level. That consistency is the key to all elite performance.”