Will new rugby league clubs in the US and Canada pick up college footballers?

first_imgNFL “I played football, rugby union, and I also wrestled as well,” says Burroughs, the former Virginia football player. “I wouldn’t say you could rule anyone from any sport out. There are freak athletes who play basketball who could come over here and transition to rugby league, play in the second row maybe. The most comparable thing I could put rugby league to is American football: a few drives and then you get to the kick. If you played rugby union, playing league might confuse you a bit more because the games are totally different.”USA and Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott is more circumspect. “It can take three, four or maybe five years for someone who thinks they’re a full-back to really nail the skills of playing full-back, for someone who thinks they’re a nine to know all the subtleties, all the nods and winks that nines have. If you haven’t grown up with the game, the skill acquisition will take you five years.”Whether an American football player could go straight to the top level of league remains unlikely. “I’m not going to say anything is impossible,” says Burroughs, who struggled for game time with the Wolfpack in League One and is now injured until mid-season. “It depends on the person and how hard they are willing to learn.”Darker reasons have emerged for why Jarryd Hayne may have left San Francisco 49ers after just one season of trying to break the NFL but the Fiji World Cup star has valid opinions on who could make the transition. “A lot of the DBs [defensive backs] and wide receivers have the body shape, vision and agility for our type of game,” Hayne told me in Townsville. “The running backs are naturally suited to league as well. Watching PNG, they look like a team full of running backs, they’ve all got that nuggety build.” Share on LinkedIn Second Canadian team planned for RFL, says man behind Toronto Wolfpack Just a month after the uplift of the World Cup, a tug of war over NRL player availability is dragging the international game back down. It seems “so rugby league” that an Australian league and players union can put the handbrake on a venture featuring England and New Zealand playing in America. But the problems over releasing players to leave Australia to play a Test match in Denver rumbles on. There is a major point of principle here that is going to test the strength and backbone of Wayne Bennett, Kevin Sinfield and Nigel Wood – England’s administrative spine, if you like – to the limit. They are all publicly desperate to win this fight and get the game on. If they don’t, we will all know where the rest of the world stands: in the corner at Australia’s private party with dunce’s hats on all round. The wisdom of playing in Denver and not Toronto, or New York, Boston, Hamilton or Philadelphia – the four front-runners to join the RFL party – may not be accurately measurable until after the 2025 World Cup there. But playing at altitude in 75,000-seater Mile High Stadium does seem rather unnecessary and ambitious.Clubcall: New York City RLFCThis time next year we may well be preparing for New York’s debut game. Given that 2019 wil probably see Super League back up to 14 clubs, NYCRLFC (that might need tidying up) could be in an expanded Championship rather than starting in League One. League writer and entrepreneur Ricky Wilby – nephew of former Hull and Leeds player Tim Wilby – tells me they are already putting their community outreach programme together, with a New York sports promoter starting work.As confirmed by RFL supremo Nigel Wood, New York hope to get the green flag early this spring and open in front of a full Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey a year later. Having spent the World Cup down under meeting players, coaches, managers and agents, Wilby says we can expect to see a handful of current USA internationals in the inaugural NYC squad, alongside a couple of headline-grabbing NRL stars and some familiar names from our domestic game. Currently, NYC will have to meet the RFL’s Federation-trained quota restrictions: i.e. be treated like a British club, although they hope to get those tweaked.New York could be joined in 2019 by Boston – Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire – but that seems more likely to be in 2020. The learned consortium behind Boston RLFC, which includes co-owners from Super League and the NRL, have already lined up a venue, but they do not want to rush into anything until serious money is in place and local expertise on board. New York have done that and appear to be a year ahead.Goal-line drop-outExciting news has reached us from Seattle about the inaugural London9s. With 24 men’s and 12 women’s teams, LDN9s will be arguably the biggest rugby league event in London in 2018. A familiar face at London Skolars and the driving force behind Masters in the capital, Graham Oliphant is so committed to the emerging Nines circuit that he quit his career as a firefighter to run the London event and co-ordinate an RL 9s circuit. The latest team to confirm their presence at the LDN9s should bring some Super League scouts to East London on 21 July: PNG club West Papua Warriors will join league and union teams from across Europe, with talks continuing with teams from Brisbane, Fiji, USA and Canada.Tournaments in Valencia and Belgrade are in the pipeline, with Oliphant in Seattle to discuss plans for further events in the US and Canada. The LDN9s slogan is “100 games, 36 teams, 6 pitches, 3 bars, 1 amazing party”. See you there.Fifth and lastIf you find yourself watching Los Angeles Rams fighting for an NFL play-off place at their traditional Coliseum home, squint at the screen a little and allow yourself to drift away to the late 1950s. This was not only where Australia beat New Zealand in 1954, but where the LA Rams were due to play in the North American Rugby Football League against teams from San Francisco 49ers, BC Lions and Seattle. As readers of my book No Helmets Required will know, those football franchises had expressed interest in joining a spring league playing the 13-man code. There was speculation that Rams stars such as Les Richter and Jon Arnett would be playing our game, with football players earning money playing another code in the off-season rather than doing humdrum jobs. Like most other American ventures, the NARFL flopped as no one put sufficient money on the table to make it happen. Let’s hope the 2020 vision has more to it than sweet dreams.Finally, festive greetings to you all. Thanks for making 2017 the most successful year for the No Helmets blog. More of you are reading this than ever before and our World Cup coverage ensured that November was by far the biggest and best month ever. Merry Christmas and see you in 2018 – and keep the comments coming!Follow No Helmets Required on Twitter and Facebook It is not the physical challenge as much as the mental ones that would prevent talent following Hayne in making the opposite journey from elite rugby to the NFL, according to one Englishman currently doing that. Former England Sevens star Alex Gray moved from Leeds to Georgia earlier this year on the NFL’s International Player Pathway to sign for Atlanta Falcons as an aspiring tight end.“It’s not the physical skills that would get them into the NFL,” says the 26-year-old former Newcastle and London Irish back. “I know rugby, I know you don’t have to do that much studying. It’s a very instinctive game. What people think of the NFL is a warped perception. Everyone thinks it’s these amazing athletes doing miraculous things. But now I’ve been in the system and seen what it’s all about, that’s less than 10% of it. It is a glorified chess game.“In rugby league, there’s some great athletes, but it’s the mental side of it: can they take the humble route from being a star in their game to being essentially an academy player in another? And can they put in the hours studying the playbook? It’s what they are giving up: being at the top of one game, which they have spent ten years to reach, to the bottom of another.”Gray does think there is an opportunity for rugby to recruit college athletes, but only if clubs are willing to invest time and money in coaches to help them learn the game. “There are a couple of guys here who would make great rugby players,” says the Rio Olympic silver-medallist. “There’s a hole there. Thousands fall by the side every year, coming out of college with nowhere to go. But it would really test the clubs. Would the coaches be good enough to transfer them? Not a lot of development coaching goes on in rugby and there are not enough coaches at each club. The raw material is there, if someone has the interest to work with it.” Share on Messenger Since you’re here… Super League So that was the off-season: three whole weeks. Hope you enjoyed it! Five Super League clubs are playing derbies next week: Wakefield v Leeds and Castleford v Featherstone on Boxing Day, then Widnes v Warrington on Friday night. Leeds have named Brad Singleton and Antony Mullally in a strong side for their first Boxing Day visit to Belle Vue since 1954, just six weeks after they played for Ireland in Canberra!Unless you live in West Yorkshire or south-west Lancashire, the only professional rugby league you can watch in the dying days of 2017 will be on TV. Many of us will get our oval ball fix via gridiron, picturing the time when New York v Philadelphia or Boston will be a rugby league, not just NFL fixture – (ditto Hamilton v Toronto in the CFL). It may not be long before you see more American football players ditching the helmets and pads to try rugby league.Toronto Wolfpack and USA winger Ryan Burroughs thinks league should pillage the ranks of thousands of college football players who are at a loose end in their early 20s after failing to be drafted by the pros. Guardian Sport Network Foreign quota Share via Email Read more Share on Pinterest Share on Facebookcenter_img RFL Rugby league Share on WhatsApp Topics Jarryd Hayne features The most successful American football player to convert to rugby league remains former Rose Bowl winner Alvin Earl Kirkland from UCLA who, after starring at centre for the American All Stars down under in 1953, was ever-present for Parramatta in 1958 and made his debut for Leeds before failing to get a work permit and returning to southern California. … we have a small favour to ask. 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