By Brian Lowe, Date: 6/2/18 (Photo Credit: Colin Watson)
In a move completely out of the box, Canada’s Ontario Rugby League has submitted an expression of interest (EOI) to play in the USARL competition this coming season.
Under the EOI, the Ontario provincial team proposes to play its home games as curtain raisers to Toronto Wolfpack matches at Lamport Stadium, or at alternative venues while Lamport undergoes redevelopment.
Canada Wolverines head coach Ben Fleming, who volunteers with the Ontario League, has lodged the EOI with USARL saying the rationale behind it is to get more players playing the game, which would benefit both countries.
“I believe this would be an added drawcard to getting players interested, or playing,” said Fleming.
“I think if an Ontario side could be seen playing in the USA competition then it possibly generates more interest for both countries, and with more interest comes more exposure, potentially more sponsorship, more players at the grassroots level etc.”
From a Canadian and Ontario perspective, he says local clubs might also benefit from more players joining their ranks because of the added incentive of trying to make the provincial team.
“Currently players in Ontario only play a handful of games each year and it can be really tough,” continued Fleming.
“But if they can go and play in the USA competition then they go from playing about four games a year to 14 games a year and that’s a significant difference in terms of knowledge of the game, especially under pressure, and over a prolonged period of time.”
The good news for Ontario is that their request is being given serious consideration by the USARL.
“We are open to all applications and it is currently under review, along with all others submitted for this season,” said USARL interim chairman Danny Hanson.
“For any team submitting an application, we evaluate on many factors, including; financial stability, ability to provide a gameday facility compliant to USARL standards, and ability to provide a competitive side for the upcoming season.”
As the EOI is still in the evaluation process, Hanson says to make any further comment on it at this stage would be premature.
“We are holding our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on March 3-4, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida,” he added.
“Once the AGM is completed, all accepted teams will be notified, and the 2018 schedule will be formally released.”