An announcement was made on Wednesday that the NARL Western Conference will not play games in 2021. This was confirmed by the NARL themselves. However, the NARL Eastern Conference and the Canada Cup between the Ottawa Aces XIII and the Toronto Wolfpack is still set to take place this year.
The NARL Western Conference will not play this year
The NARL Western Conference, which includes cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland will not play in 2021.
OFFICIAL STATEMENT: pic.twitter.com/amvFxP03G2
— North American Rugby League (@NARugbyLeague) May 12, 2021
This is a setback for the NARL. Almost half of the teams that were expected to play will not until 2022. In the tweet above, it said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic played a part in the insurance problem for the NARL Western Conference.
This also means there will only be eight teams in the NARL this year. This will be the six Eastern teams in the U.S., plus the two Canadian teams.
The future of the NARL Western Conference
It did feel ambitious that the league would start to play a few months after the league was officially formed and announced. Saying that, the six Western Conference teams now have a full year to get ready and prepare themselves. There is also a possibility that there might be more teams coming into the NARL in 2022.
— North American Rugby League (@NARugbyLeague) March 31, 2021
This is because when Ottawa and Toronto join the NARL Eastern Conference next year, there will be eight Eastern and six Western teams next year. This is what NARL’s Chief Operating Officer Robert Curtis said according to Michael Carbone’s Chasing Kangaroos podcast:
“By adding potentially two more Canadian teams, one in Central Canada and one in Western Canada. Add them to the Western Conference. And then at least two U.S. based teams, one in the Eastern and one in the Western Conference respectively next year.”
Curtis would later say he would love to have these four teams next year. It would also mean there would be nine teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences next year if this comes true.
One would think Vancouver, British Columbia and Los Angeles, California would be favourite to get a rugby league team next year. British Columbia is considered a hotbed of rugby league talent in Canada. Also, there are local leagues seen in both British Columbia and California.
It is important to note that a lot could change. The skepticism of the NARL Western Conference will not go away until they start playing games next year, which is understandable. The NARL has yet to kick off, but the NARL Eastern Conference starting next month should prove some of those doubters wrong.
The 2021 NARL season and playoff schedule
The impact of the NARL Western Conference not playing in 2021
The 2021 NARL season schedule will most likely not change for the six NARL American teams set to play this year. This is because the Canadian and Eastern NARL teams were not going to play Western NARL teams this season.
The plan was for a Western NARL team to play against an NARL Eastern or Canadian team in the Grand Final of the NARL playoffs. There will be most likely be a slight change to the playoff format. This is largely because there will be no Western Conference teams in the playoffs.
Canada Cup and NARL Eastern Conference schedules
As it stands right now, the Canada Cup winner will face the first-place team in the Eastern Conference. The second and third place finishers in the Eastern Conference would also face each other.
The winner of those two playoff matchups will go to the NARL Grand Final. Of course, this format could change depending on what the NARL decides to do.
MEET THE TEAMS | The Ottawa Aces are the second Canadian Club, following the lead of the @TOwolfpack .
Their head coach is Laurent Frayssinous who was the Head Coach of SL side the @DragonsOfficiel for 4 years, replacing Trent Robinson, current @sydneyroosters Head Coach. pic.twitter.com/L0BA2MsoZv
— Sports Flick (@SportsFlick) May 11, 2021
The Canada Cup will be three games. This is said by Ottawa Aces XIII founder Eric Perez according to CBC News. The games are going to be shown on SportsFlick (as with all NARL games) and most likely CBC Sports.
— CFL News (@CFL_News) May 13, 2021
That competition is set to take place in August. However, the province of Ontario (where Ottawa and Toronto are situated) announced on Thursday that there will be no big sporting events in the summer. This might mean a schedule change from August to September for both the Aces and the Wolfpack.
The season in the NARL Eastern Conference is still set to kick-off on June 19. The Boston Thirteens will face the Atlanta Rhinos at 2:00 p.m. ET on June 19.
That game will be the first-ever NARL game played. The other games on June 19 include the Washington Cavalry facing the Brooklyn Kings while the New York Freedom RL will go against Cleveland Rugby League.
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