Netherlands points to growth in rugby league after Amsterdam Cobras win Grand Final

Drew Darbyshire

Rugby league is on the rise in Netherlands after Amsterdam Cobras beat Den Haag Knights in the NRLB Grand Final.

The Cobras edged the Knights 29-28 in golden point extra-time last weekend to register their first title in four seasons of the NRLB competition.

This time last year, they were on the other end of a drop goal, going down in the third-place play-off game to Harderwijk Dolphins.

Netherlands Rugby League Bond development officer Jason Bruygoms said: “It’s been a season full of surprises.

“Rotterdam Pitbulls, who have been the standout side to date having won all three previous Grand Finals, didn’t make it to the decider this year.

“The standard has really been lifted, we have more members than ever before and it’s exciting to see players from the German competition once again playing for the Dutch teams. It makes sense that the next step would be expanding to include a German team and ultimately a competition with Dutch, German and Belgian sides.

“It is something that has always been a hot topic but without some good sponsors, government recognition etc it has always been just out of our reach.”

Bruygoms added: “The downfall of a four-team domestic competition being played over a two-month period is that an injury can easily cost a player half the season or worse.

“Ideally, we need to expand the league to play more games but to do that we need more teams. The sport is growing here, we have a couple of clubs in the making, but it may still take a year or two until they are at the stage to be able to play at that level.”

After creating the NRLB nine years ago, Bruygoms is standing down but feels as though the time is right for administrative change to match the competition’s ambition.

He said: “The next couple of years are going to be exciting for the development of rugby league here.

“The face of the board has changed over the past couple years with the likes of Timo Meinders and Justin Stook, who both played a big part in the growth and development in the Netherlands over the past six years or so, stepping down.

“I personally think it’s only good for the sport to get some new blood involved and give a new face to Dutch rugby league. The foundations have been set and now it’s time to build and expand. It’s amazing when I think back to where it all started and where the sport is today.”

Rugby League European Federation general manager Danny Kazandjian noted: “Jason is one of the unheralded heroes of European rugby league.

“He has selflessly dedicated a decade of his life to creating, nurturing and growing the NRLB and cultivating and mentoring a wave of colleagues who are now experienced and committed to continue his pioneering work.

“Jason’s only objective was for the game to succeed and it is right that he bows out with the NRLB in a more stable position than at any time in its history.”