Rugby league in the United States

Rugby league in the United States

Rugby league is a participation and spectator sport played in the United States of America. A single amateur competition, the American National Rugby League (AMNRL) is predominantly based on the north-east coast. A national side, known as the Tomahawks, participates in international competition.


In 1939 the Californian Rugby Football Union wrote to the RFL to tell them they wanted to switch from rugby union and affiliate to the RFL. In June 1939 the RFL made plans to send a delegation out to California but were unable to do so due to the outbreak of World War Two.

1950s: American All-Stars

One of the earliest attempts to introduce rugby league to the United States was in 1953, when Mike Dimitro, a wrestling promoter, was asked to organise a tour of Australasia by an American rugby league side. The team was given a huge schedule that included 26 matches against Australian and New Zealand sides. None of the 22 American players had ever played rugby league prior to this tour, they presented themselves in gridiron like attire early on in the tournamenet. The side only won six games as well as drawing two [ [ Sean Fagan, "American All-Stars Rugby League",] retrieved 20 April, 2007]

Their second match of the tour, against a Sydney side, drew a crowd of 65,453 to the Sydney Cricket Ground. After a consistent lack of competition, crowds were good but never reached the same heights. The tour did not in turn bring any benefits to American rugby league, but Mike Dimitro did not give up, he was able to organise two exhibitions against Australia and New Zealand in California that did not turn out to be a big success. An American side also made a short tour of France in early 1954, including a match against the France national team in Paris. France beat USA 31-0.

Mike Dimitro was still optimistic of developing rugby league in the United States, but his bid to host a Rugby League World Cup in the 1960s failed, most likely due to America's poor record with rugby league. Rugby league was not played again in the United States for decades.

1980s: State of Origin in California

In 1987 an exhibition State of Origin match was played between Queensland and New South Wales at Long Beach, California. The result of this match was not to be included in official statistics, but in recent years the New South Wales Rugby League, and media organisations based in that state have added the win to their tally.

1990s: The return of the United States

The AMNRL has been running a successful domestic competition in the north-east of the United States since 1998. Prior to this, 'Adirondacks', a club based in New York state USA, participated in the 4-team Canadian Tri-County competition in the late 1980s. Since 2002, the Tomahawks have been playing regular international competition in the United States.

2000s: Crowe Brings New Found Popularity

In January 2008, Australian club South Sydney Rabbitohs (owned By Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes à Court) played a trial game against 2007 European Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos. The game was held in Jacksonville, Florida. Leeds got off to a 26-0 lead at half-time and looked to have it sewn up. In the second half South Sydney scored 24 unanswered points and nearly stage a remarkable comeback. End score Leeds 26 - 24 South Sydney.

The game attracted a 12,500 crowd, thanks to Russell Crowe spreading publicity on several American TV shows. The crowd included celebrities such as Dennis Rodman, Layne Beachley, American Chopper and more.

With the success of this game there is now a rumour that USA are bidding to host the World Club Challenge which sees the champions from the two biggest rugby league competitions in the world (European Super League and Australiasian National Rugby League) facing off.


The United States has a domestic rugby league competition, the American National Rugby League, or, the AMNRL, it is predominantly based on the north-east coast. It currently has ten teams participating:
* Washington D.C. Slayers
* Aston DSC Bulls
* Philadelphia Fight
* New Jersey Sharks
* Connecticut Wildcats
* New York Knights
* Northern Raiders
* Jacksonville Axemen
* New Haven Warriors
* Fairfax Eagles

Former Teams

*Boston Braves
*Delaware Valley Mantarays
*Glen Mills Bulls

Expansion & Gain in Popularity

Although the 'heartland' of rugby league is the north east coast, the AMNRL is quickly expanding to other areas of the eastern coast, as well as this, efforts are being made to set up a west coast competition.

In 2006, a new team joined the AMNRL from Boston, which played an exhibition match in 2005. Teams from New Haven (Connecticut) and Jacksonville (Florida) also joined the 2006 competition. A Chicago team is also going through various stages of development with possible inclusion in the AMNRL in the future.

Florida has hosted rugby league games in the past, the state was the host to 1999 North Pacific Qualification Tournament, where the USA beat both Japan and Canada to meet Lebanon for the right to play in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. In 2001, Florida was also host to the Sunshine State Challenge, where the United States competed against the Huddersfield Giants, Halifax and the Leeds Rhinos, the miniature tournament drew a crowd of 6,700.

In 2005, an exhibition match was played on the west coast of the United States, in Phoenix, Arizona, to help promote rugby league outside the heartland. Plans are underway to start a west coast competition callaed the WAMNRL. []

Since early 2003, general interest in Rugby League all over the United States has increased dramatically and more people are attending games every year.Fact|date=October 2007 The United States is applying to host the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

The National Team

The United States played their first international since their re-emergence in 1987 against Canada (A USA team previously played an international match against France in 1954). They have participated in the Rugby League World Sevens (1995 and 1997), Superleague World Nines (1996 and 1997), Rugby League Emerging Nations Tournament (2000) and Victory Cup (2003 and 2004) competitions.

ee also

* Comparison of American football and rugby league



* [ American All Stars RL Team]
* [ Official American National Rugby League (AMNRL) website]

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