Some teams make their home grounds into fortresses after one campaign, sometimes two. The Jacksonville Axemen’s stadium might seem like Fort Knox to visiting sides – the Jax Axe have not lost a home game in eight seasons.
The Axemen, who are based in Florida, recently signed off the 2016 regular season with a 48-12 victory against the Central Florida Warriors to qualify for the play-offs.
In the USA, there are three divisions, made up of fourteen teams spread across North and South Conferences.
Sides in the North play eight games in the regular season whilst sides in the South play two less.
After that, the play-offs beckon where the teams finishing second and third in the North-East and Mid-Atlantic face off against the sides who finished at the top.
Meanwhile, in the South the winners of first v fourth and second v third face off. The side who emerges victorious meets the champion of the North for the showpiece event – the National Championship.
The USA Rugby League was only founded back in 2011 and up until two years ago was a single-division competition. The Jax Axe were Grand Final winners back in 2012 but will be hoping for more success in the new structure.
Why is Jacksonville’s ground, Hodges Stadium in North Florida, such a hard place to go and win? Axemen general manager Drew Slover believes it is the close-knit group of players and staff at the club which make the difference.
“I think the reason why we have such a good home record is because of the relationships between the players,” Slover told Love Rugby League.
“We are all really good friends. The culture we have tried to build is all about making it the best possible experience for the players.
“Our coaches and the Australians that have come to the club have all been exceptional.”
After spending the last season undefeated, Slover has warned his players not to become complacent in the upcoming play-offs.
“There is definitely a high level of competitiveness in the South. Anyone can beat anyone.
“Having said that we feel confident and think we have a good chance of progressing.”
Those sentiments are echoed by coach Ben Nicoll, who is preparing for a big challenge over the next few weeks.
“The professionalism at this club is brilliant and a real driving factor behind the results on the pitch,” Nicoll said.
“The imports have also been really good and I think they have helped to take the club to the next level.
“These next few games are going to be tough. I am pretty confident about the progress we will make in the South.
“It is the North Divisions where there are a number of dangerous teams. The likes of Boston [13s], Philadelphia [Fight] and the New York Knights will all be tough opposition.”