Three Eastern European nations have teamed up to spread the sport of Rugby League in an innovative new initiative.
Representatives of Kyrgyztsan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan met this week with Rugby League European Federation Executive & Development Officer Kevin Rudd and Regional Co-ordinator Julia Bennison, who has worked tirelessly on bringing the relevant, interested parties together.
Rudd took a coaching session with a group of Kazakhstan juniors who hope to play in next year’s European under 18’s Championships, while further discussions centred on a Khazakh Women’s team joining the European circuit.
They recently went to Russia to play in a tournament against a number of teams there, including the majority of the national team, and returned triumphant with their coach Vladimir Drozdov sending out a similar challenge to other women’s teams, especially in England and France.
Additionally, the idea of forming a regional side from the three nations, possibly called Asia Stars, to play touring sides was debated along with the countries playing against each other in an extension of the European Bowl, recently won by Ukraine after victories over Latvia and Estonia, to six teams in 2010.
Kevin Rudd commented from Almaty, “The hospitality was fantastic, we were superbly looked after – which is something that would be extended to any touring teams – and the meetings extremely productive.”
“Julia should take full credit for making contact with the people here and communicating with them now for a period of about six months. She has again brought in new members to the Rugby League family.”
Executive Director of Kazakhstan Rugby, Stanislav Knorr was the driving force behind the initiative and he was re-introduced to an old friend. Of German origin, he was involved when rugby league was played in the region in the early 1990’s when the country was part of the USSR.
Chief of the Rugby Football League then, David Oxley, was behind the code being tried there and, through a conference call arranged by Rudd, the pair were reunited.
Investigations have also begun about the possibility of re-starting a domestic competition in the region. “The area is a natural meeting point of cultures” commented Rudd. “Those who choose to tour this region will have an incredible cultural experience and enjoy a great sense of history.”
“We look forward to furthering our sporting connections in this area. I am gratified that the three countries want to play and get involved with the growing thirteen-a-side fraternity.”