New York City rugby league team unveiled

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The New York City rugby league team was unveiled on Tuesday, March. 10. Unlike Toronto and Ottawa though, the New York City team launch was in Liverpool, England and not in New York City or – its planned base of Harrison, New Jersey.

A unique approach, yet respective of the competition where the side will play many of their games. While both the Toronto Wolfpack and Ottawa Aces XIII were introduced in their local cities. New York is a bigger market, for an International market and a trans-Atlantic league.

This article will look at New York City’s development of players and staff, the sports competition in New York City, and their coaching plans. Lastly and most importantly, it is their plan to launch the club in 2021 before going into League One in 2022.

This will be an interesting team to follow as this will be America’s first-ever pro rugby league team. One of their known sponsors will be Hilton Newark Airport.

Looking at the New York City rugby league Plan

Challenge Cup 2021

The New York City rugby league team was originally set to be in League One in 2021. However, since the Ottawa Aces will be coming into League One in 2021, the New York City team was pushed back into 2022. However, Ricky Whilby, founder of the New York City team, revealed that they plan to start their season in 2021:

“Negotiations are in advanced stages for New York City rugby league team to enter the game’s oldest knockout competition in 2021.”

Whilby is talking about the Challenge Cup, the open cup competition founded in 1895 that includes all the teams in England from amateur to professional side teams. The Toronto Wolfpack and Red Star Belgrade are also in the competition. They and most likely the Ottawa Aces XIII will join them in 2021.

According to Love Rugby League next year, they plan to play their Challenge Cup matchups in New York City or at least somewhere in the Greater New York City Area. This is quite different than the Toronto Wolfpack, who so far has played all their Challenge Cup games on the road.

Furthermore, they have the potential to spend the full cap. This means that the New York City team will be a fully professional rugby league team in 2021.

Possibility of NYC playing in a North American Cup competition

It is very unlikely that they will play in the open cup between the Toronto Wolfpack and the Ottawa Aces XIII.

The reason is that the Cup between the Aces and the Wolfpack is a “Canada Cup.” The New York City team though can take notes of the “Canada Cup.” Although, New York City can take inspiration from this and form their own Open Cup with a possible second pro-American team.

New York City rugby league team aims at attracting Australian ex-pats

To fill the 2021 gap, the New York City Rugby League team plans to play of the three National Rugby League (NRL) teams in Australia according to Brad Walter of The NRL currently has 15 teams in Australia and one in New Zealand. New York City will be aiming to get these high-level opponents as preparation for the 2021 rugby league season.

“There’s a massive Australian ex-pat market in New York.” Wilby hopes to attract the American market by making the three games cheap enough for many fans to come over and watch. He said this on the Total Rugby Podcast.

“Three games for one price.” Wilby said he would later say “three Australian teams in New York.” This means that three NRL teams will play in New York City. He also said other games could be on the way.

The franchise also wants to be competitive in the Challenge Cup. They also plan to sign players that are from Australia and England. However, just like the Ottawa Aces XIII, their head coach will be the one making all the decisions.

Who will be the NYC head coach?

Wilby reveals their goals on the Total Rugby League show. This is what he said on the podcast: “a long-term, long-term coach.” And then he continues: “If I go out and sign 30 players and the coach doesn’t like them, we are no helping anybody.”

This makes sense as the head coach will be the one coaching the players. He may not feel motivated by coaching a squad that he never selected. Moreover, head coaches who did not select the players may not take responsibility. They can use it as “an excuse” for why things went south for the club.

Lastly, one of the important talking points in the article is New York City rugby league’s plan to develop players and staff. Most of the staff will be from the US and they plan to have a few players on their roster in the foreseeable future.

Continuing the plan: Developing Players and Staff

New York City has made a big stance on developing players. As Wilby explains in Total Rugby League’s Aaron Bower’s article: “The intention is to have four development guys in America, and two here. It will be more than most clubs have in England but we’re a brand new start-up and we have to build from the ground up.”

He also did admit though that there is potential in the US: “We’re here to give opportunities to people that haven’t had it before. USA Rugby League is in a stronger position than Canadian Rugby League, in the sense that it’s just more well-established.”

Eddy Pettybourne of the USA is tackled by Ryan Ghietti of Italy during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Italy and the USA at 1300SMILES Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Like with the Ottawa Aces XIII, the New York City Rugby League team is committed to growing the game. However, it is unknown at this point how much playing time they will have.

Wilby then goes further in terms of where the staff will come from: “We’ll have a dozen non-playing staff in place for next year, and most of those will be in America,” he explains.

While this is all good, there is a lot of sports competition in New York City. Furthermore, unlike Toronto and Ottawa, they will not be playing in downtown New York City. They will be playing instead in Harrison, New Jersey at Red Bull Arena.

Existing New York City professional sports teams

There are many professional sports teams in New York City. This includes Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, the NHL’s New York Rangers, and the NBA’s New York Knicks. Furthermore, it is important to mention their pro rugby union team, Rugby United New York. Their professional rugby union team currently plays in Brooklyn, New York at MCU Park.

According to Adrian Proszenko of Sydney Morning Herald, the New York City rugby league team will fill a need for a winning sports team. “The New York sporting market is crying out for a successful sporting team.

“The Yankees have had a bit of a slump, the Giants and Jets have had tough times, it’s devastating for fans to see where the Knicks are. If they can offer some sort of success, there is definitely a gap in the market for rugby league.”

It is important to mention that this team will not play in New York City, but instead in Harrison, New Jersey. They will be playing at Red Bull Arena, where Major League Soccer team the New York Red Bulls currently reside in. The biggest challenge for the New York City rugby league team is their location.

Fans will need to commute to get to Red Bull Arena by getting to the Harrison Station – using the Port Authority of NY/NJ PATH line. Furthermore, the New York Red Bulls draw a bit over 17,000 people per game at Red Bull Arena according to Soccer Stadium Digest.

There is no reason why the professional rugby league team will not work.

Overview of the New York City rugby league team

The New York City Rugby League Team looks promising for 2022. This will also be the year America will be getting its first-ever professional rugby league team. Like what the Toronto Wolfpack has done for Canada, the New York City Rugby League team should be making headways in the US. There are already a few competitions in the US including the USARL and a California competition.

Specifically talking about teams in New York State, there is the Brooklyn Kings and the White Plains Wombats. However, it is fair to say to not expect too many American players on their roster.

Just like the Toronto Wolfpack and the Ottawa Aces XIII, they will be dependent on mainly foreign players. Although since the Aces are creating their own academy, it may give New York City some ideas to build American talent.

The biggest concerns for this team will not be 2021, but rather 2022. It will be hard for New York City to replicate Toronto. This is because unlike Toronto, New York City team will not be in downtown New York City. Also, this will be the first North American expansion team not led by Eric Perez. It will be interesting how Wilby differs from Perez in the next few years.

Saying that the New York City team will more than likely succeed. They have the population base, enthusiasm and a pathway [with UK rugby league], and realistically don’t need to outdraw the other main sports teams in New York City.

The team just needs to play, to demonstrate a similar drive and attitude to the Toronto Wolfpack, and New York sports fans should embrace them.


Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images