Canada West - Rugby League

Photo Credit: Jay Costa

The new rugby league year in Canada has kicked back into gear in earnest after what was a forced two-year hiatus brought on by the global pandemic.

The Rugby League British Columbia (RLBC) 9’s tournament was played this past weekend with Point Grey Thunder winning out. It marked the start of a busy 2022 domestic season on the way.

The tournament followed the women’s national team, the Ravens, hosting the USA Redtails in April in what was the Americans’ international debut.

Canada Rugby League Association (CRLA) acting president Josh Knight says with the Ravens having qualified for Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021), a lot of the CRLA’s attention will be focused on them in the lead up to the tournament, which is scheduled to be played in the UK towards the end of the year.

“Ravens, being a World Cup year, will stage several training camps with the first starting in Ontario this July,” Knight tells Rugby League Planet.

“They will then look to play another game in Canada, before making their way to England for a hopeful warm-up match (to be confirmed) before their first RLWC match on November 1st against PNG Orchids.”

The Ravens had been tentatively scheduled for a second game against the Redtails in July, but that game has since been put on ice due to the restructuring of the women’s program in the United States by the national governing body, US Association of Rugby League (USARL) Inc.

As for the men’s national team, the Wolverines, they have been idle since 2019 when they toured Serbia. They went 2-1 on that short tour but haven’t played a game since then, again because of Covid-19.

The Wolverines had been due to compete in the Rugby League Americas Championship with the USA, Jamaica and Chile in 2020, although that tournament was postponed until 2021 and was then further postponed until either 2022 or 2023. A final decision on when and where it will be played has yet to be confirmed by the International Rugby League (IRL).

With that in mind, the CRLA is taking the bit between the teeth and is looking to re-boot the national team’s schedule this year.

“The CRLA will look to set up some Wolverines matches towards the end of the year in the Americas,” says Knight.

“We always welcome any nation that is interested in touring Canada, to play the national team, so are always open to host. We will then look toward preparing the men for RLWC2025 qualification into next year.”

On the domestic club competition front, things have been fairly quiet as well with the pandemic limiting activity, but that is all about to change this summer.

The RLBC will kick off Round 1 of its regular season this coming Saturday, June 4th, in Langley, BC where six clubs will be competing for the championship trophy. Vancouver Valley Vipers will face off against Point Grey Thunder in a replay of the 2021 Grand Final to kick-off the 2022 season.

Ontario Rugby League (ORL) continues its domestic season with some scheduled matches during the summer. This will prepare them for their inaugural 9’s tournament set to be played in August.

Alberta Rugby League (ARL) is working on restructuring their governance following the resignation of president Tanya Leah. They hope to get some training and games going for the summer as they look to regain the title of Best in the West, with their annual game against the BC Bulldogs and Storm in BC on August 14th.

And the long-awaited return of Western Canada versus Eastern Canada men’s and women’s matches are set for early September in British Columbia. The CRLA’s three-year plan is to stage the event in BC in 2022, Toronto in 2023, and then hopefully Alberta in 2024.

The one and only time it has been played so far was in 2020, when the East won the men’s matchup 44-14, and the West triumphed 24-18 in the women’s game.

“The CRLA’s main focus going forward is helping to establish a strong domestic competition platform across the whole of Canada to strengthen our national teams with home grown domestic talent into the future,” adds Knight.

“We have scheduled match official courses to take place for all provincial associations and will look to set up national coaching courses later in the year.”

Brian Lowe
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.