GUEST POST: @ItsMitchell180 ponders “Ukraine: IS GAME TO YOU?!?”

He’s a man of many fetishes, ol’ @ItsMitchell180: he enjoys long walks on the beach, Simpsons Hentai and discussing the merits of rugby league on a global scale.

His arguments are like a report from Brian Fantana: compelling and rich. And much like Brian Fantana’s cologne, 60 per cent of the time they work every time. For mine, this is one of those articles that lands in that 60 per cent.

I’ve long been bullish on the merits of rugby league as a product that would succeed in a global market. I’ve converted my US-born wife, and her family are on board and bound for a game in the next few years. Steve Mascord has been phenomenal in chasing these stories, while Mitch is as vocal on Twitter about the game in other regions as anyone else. Here, the latter discusses one of the more significant-yet-unheralded announcements of late.

Enjoy and, as always, direct all criticism/praise to Mitch on Twitter or in the comments section below.

(Before we get there, it’s fair to say that missed the memo that this is a Sydney Roosters website. But thanks to his efforts via repeated pestering and profound argument, 26 Rounds has opened a new section on the website called “The Other 15”. Or the section otherwise known as “news unrelated to the Chooks”.  If you’d like to contribute an article to “The Other 15”, get in touch with Mitch on Twitter; I’m granting him promotional powers on this one. You can also hit me up via the contact link above, or on Twitter (@26Rounds) or Facebook. You can write what you want.)

Ukraine is game to you?!?

By @ItsMitchell180

"We're playing a game here, pal."

“We’re playing a game here, pal.”

There was a fantastic announcement recently regarding a foreign rugby league outpost that deserves further mention. According to an article on Rugby League Planet:

The Ukrainian Rugby League Federation (UFRL) has struck an agreement with the authorities to include specific rugby league content in the state’s 45 sports schools. 

In what the UFRL describes as, “a major victory” for the sport, the move follows rugby league’s official recognition by the government in 2012.

“For rugby league in the Ukraine this is a massive achievement,” said UFRL president Artur Martyrosyan. “Now that we have an official rugby league study programme, every sports school can help develop the game.”

“In the near future we can hope to have youth competitions between about 2,000 participants.”   

The breakthrough also means that the UFRL can begin development work in previously virgin territories by conducting coach education courses for the various state sports school teachers. 

This is an underrated story on so many levels, but perhaps the most important angle is that the possibilities for the game are open like never before and the gospel of rugby league can be spread by the youth of the country – and potentially neighbouring countries such as Belarus, Moldova and Romania and perhaps even Russia, where the game showed massive potential as a growth sport a decade ago but fell by the wayside.

[Roosters fans may also be familiar with the Ukraine but not even know it. Former prop Ian Rubin, who played for the Roosters from 2000-2001, was born there. He then represented the nearby Russia at the 2000 World Cup under the Grandparent Rule. So there’s that – JJ.]

This announcement further solidifies the air of optimism that has surrounded the game since the World Cup last year. The success of the USA and the performances of minnow RL nations Italy and Scotland has woken people up to the opportunity the game has.

That is, if the game is smart about it.

“Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” “The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to establish rugby league as a niche sport in Eastern Europe.”

I’m not saying rugby league needs to achieve world domination but to become a niche sport in a few nations other than the known powerhouses Australia, England and New Zealand would be a fine achievement after the constant crap it cops from rah-rah types about it not being an international sport. And this announcement is just a further step in the right direction toward changing that perception.

The Ukraine is following the lead set by some schools in Providence, Rhode Island, and in my opinion that’s the right way to go. Rugby league should be trying to introduce itself as an alternative option, not necessarily as the main one from the get-go, and getting into the schools is the perfect way to do this.

Some say the RLWC was a farce and a waste of time, but the people who watched on TV or attended the event tell an entirely different story. And the crowds were impressive for a game that no-one supposedly gives two hoots about.

The momentum built on the back of the success of the cup and good work from the RLIF in promoting the game is there for all to see.

After the sport was finally recognised by its Government, South Africa began to campaign to host the 2017 World Cup. And just a few weeks ago was an historic international match between the Philippines and the Latin Heat, a team complied from players from Central America. The heat were pumped 114-0, but it’s a step in the right direction.

[The 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team” won all their games at Barcelona by nearly 50 points a game in romping to the Gold. Just 12 years later they lost three times and finished with the Bronze. Baby steps are the only way sometimes to climb the stairs, but you have to be on the stairs in the first place – JJ.]

The world cup itself made a profit and the game’s arms are reaching further than ever. The Parramatta Eels and Canada Rugby League have joined forces, with British Columbia Bulldogs players Adam Timler and Chris Chalmers training with the Eels on a short term basis.

The last example is but one initiative the NRL and English Super League need to continue to ensure the growth of the game, because hoping teams are going to be ready at every world cup is simply not a growth plan that is sustainable.

Things are happening in the world of rugby league, and with a consistent effort from all stakeholders the possibilities are endless.

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