Canada RL president welcomes Ottawa Aces

James Gordon
Ottawa Aces logo

Canada Rugby League president Bob Jowitt has welcomed the news that the country will have a second professional rugby league side.

Ottawa Aces, led by Eric Perez, will follow the path forged by Toronto Wolfpack after it was announced earlier this week that they will take their place in League 1 in 2021.

Jowitt said: “The CRLA is delighted to welcome the Aces. Having a second professional rugby league team in Ontario further raises the profile of the sport in Canada.

“Eric Perez, founder of the Ottawa Aces, has been in communication with the CRLA with respect to potential collaborative ventures which are anticipated to see the growth of the domestic game.

“With the Canada Ravens women’s team scheduled to compete in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, the Wolfpack making further strides including signing an agreement with the Pro-X Rugby Academy in Calgary, and the strengthening of the America’s Championship it is an exciting time for supporters of Canadian rugby league.”

Three of the country’s ten provinces – Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia – have rugby league competitions run by their own boards. In Ontario in 2019, Toronto City Saints beat Brantford Broncos to be crowned provincial champions, new junior sides, Georgina Griffins and Haldimand Wolfpack are now active, and a Masters tournament for over 35s was recently held.

Ontario Rugby League recently appointed a new board of directors and has plans to introduce two new women’s teams in 2020. They are also active in four junior schools, have interest from two high schools and in September ran level one and two coaching courses in Brampton led by the RLEF head of coaching, Martin Crick.

In Alberta, BC Bulldogs defeated Alberta Broncos in the men’s provincial final, whilst the women’s teams battled to a 26-26 draw in theirs.

The most grassroots rugby league takes place in British Columbia. In a five team men’s competition, Coastal Cougars recently defeated Grey Point Thunder in their Grand Final. Last year saw a successful period of growth for BCRL as the sport was introduced into a university environment, UBC, for the first time and an inaugural high school tournament was run, with McMath Secondary School crowned champions.

Internationally, the Ravens recently came back from a successful joint tour to Serbia with the men’s team, on which they beat the hosts twice. The men’s team are set to play in this autumn’s Americas Championship alongside Jamaica, USA and Chile.

Toronto hosted the Americas 9s last year at the Wolfpack’s Lamport Stadium alongside junior and Masters activities on the day, the event live-streamed.

The Canada Rugby League Association is planning a second East v West trial game for national team after the first was successfully held under canvas in Toronto at the start of this year.

CRLA annual turnover increased from $50k to $116k in the last year; player registration fees, sponsorship and a deal with the Watch NRL streaming service making up their core income.