The 2022 USA Rugby League (USARL) domestic season is set to officially kick off in June, but there are some pretty hefty challenges ahead for the newly appointed chairman Drew Slover and his board of directors.
For one thing, and it is quite possibly the biggest obstacle staring the league in the face, is the projected competition structure for this season in the North Conference.
Currently, there aren’t enough clubs in the Conference that are in a position to play regular 13-a-side games to warrant a normal schedule, so consequently, this upcoming season will take on a different look.
That situation has been brought on by funding issues, including a lack of club sponsorships, and difficulties in locking in fields, as well as other logistics that have been caused by the pandemic, and the continuing distraction of the North American Rugby League (NARL).
Several teams in the North defected to the NARL at the end of the 2020 season in the hopes of becoming semi-professional, as was spruiked by the league, although to date, none has played a game and the fledgling league has yet to materialize even though its postponed debut season is scheduled to start on May 21st.
Slover says consequently, 2022 is going to be more like a development year in the North Conference as the USARL strives to re-establish rugby league in the region.
“We’re going to have at least two weekends of events in June, starting with a Nines tournament to garner support and interest to get guys and gals playing the game up there,” he tells Rugby League Planet.
“In July, we’ll have some 13s games on a ‘Magic’ weekend and we’re looking to see if we can have another one in August.”
Slover says the Delaware Black Foxes and Philadelphia Fight, along with the Brooklyn Kings and the Boston 13s will potentially play, along with any other select sides that have an interest in participating.
In the South Conference, the season is shaping up to be similar to past years with the reigning national champion Tampa Mayhem, Jacksonville Axemen, Southwest Florida Copperheads and the South Florida Speed all competing.
Due to the limited number of teams, all clubs in the South will have some byes throughout the regular season.
Slover, who took over as USARL LLC chairman earlier this year, concedes it’s a tough time to be stepping into the role.
“It’s not ideal, but it is what it is,” he says. “We’re going to be stronger in the end because we’re going to get teams and people that are actually committed to the league in the long run, and I expect that we’ll be able to compete fully next year.”
“It’s alright. We’re trying to grow the game and grow it the right way and get those who want to be involved in the USARL.”
“Everyone who’s involved right now is committed and we’re all on the same page. We’re jiving a lot better than we ever have obviously. It’s not perfect, but I’m very excited because the people that we have engaged I think are the right people.
“This isn’t the first time that we’ve had some big kinds of hurdles, and it won’t be the last. We just have to be patient, and we’ll get there. It’ll be fine.”
The new season is scheduled to start on Saturday, June 11, with the Copperheads hosting the Speed in Naples, Florida.
The USARL national championship is set to be played at the end of August.