Two more expansion teams are being established in the western United States and expect to start competing this year in the American National Rugby League.
The clubs are based in Las Vegas and Denver and will become part of the AMNRL’s new Western Conference.
The Vegas team, to be called the Warriors, is being headed up by former USA rugby international Vaha Esikia and will come under the umbrella of the Las Vegas Rugby Academy.
The team is expected to be functional by March and will open up with some Rugby League Sevens competitions.
“I saw it as a business opportunity and another avenue for players in the LVRA other then rugby union,” Esikia told WeAreRugby. “I have a few family members who play and it’s a sport I always wanted to try.
“I know it will be a challenge at first but if we stay with it, it will be worthwhile.”
Esikia says response to the team’s formation has been very encouraging.
“We are getting some good reply,” he said. “We have a good amount of former football players and some former rugby league players. I think this will be a great opportunity for Las Vegas to have both a union and league team.”
It’s a similar story in Denver with the new club looking to start off by playing Rugby League Nines.
One of the driving forces behind the new team is Shawn Kelly, a long-time rugby man. He says he too sees an opportunity to introduce the 13-man code to an area with roots in rugby.
“I watched a league match on TV with some buddies and I fell in love with it after playing union for 20 years,” Kelly told us. “Since there weren't league clubs in the area I figured why not start one up.”
And as with the encouraging response to Rugby League in Vegas, there is interest in Denver.
“There are kind of mixed feelings towards league, but most of the people I have come in contact with about league in our area are pretty positive,” Kelly added.
The club has yet to finalize a name, but Colorado Blizzards and Denver Wolverines are among those being considered.