The structure for The Co-operative Rugby League Conference Premier and Regional Divisions for 2010 has been unveiled and the competition is again bucking the trend for open age participation with unprecedented expansion.
As it approaches its 12th summer season, the competition has recorded an astonishing 20 per cent rise in the number of sides, which means that, for the first time, it will break the 100-team barrier.
In total, 108 teams – 21 of them newcomers, including Durham Demons and North Devon Raiders – will contest The Co-operative Rugby League Conference National, Premier and Regional Divisions. In addition, 44 teams will play in four underpinning Merit Leagues whilst 16 teams will contest the Women’s RLC.
The target for the RFL is to increase the number of people playing Rugby League in England to 109, 200 by 2013 and David Gent, the RFL’s Director of Participation and Strategic Partnerships believes that the continued expansion of this competition is key to achieving this.
David Gent said: “We’re delighted that The Co-operative Rugby League Conference has broken the 100-team barrier. The 20 per cent increase in teams for the 2010 competition represents a fantastic success.
“The Co-operative Rugby League Conference is a truly national competition which is integral to increasing the number of people playing Rugby League and in helping us to meet our participation targets.
“Much of the community work which helps increase the number of open age teams in this competition is paid for by Sport England money and these figures show what a great effect this funding is having.”
Expansion has been seen in all English regions and there is now a two-tier structure in Wales as well as new teams in Scotland where a round of matches will be played at Murrayfield as part of Engage Super League’s Magic Weekend over the May Bank Holiday.
Although participation remains the principal aim, the standard of players being produced can be seen by the increasing number featuring in Engage Super League, the latest being former Bristol Sonics and Leicester Phoenix centre Michael Coady who debuted for Leeds Rhinos in Round Seven.
A number of RLC graduates have made their way into the professional ranks at Harlequins in particular, the most prominent being England international prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who began his rugby league education at Greenwich Admirals. He is quick to pay tribute to his grounding in the sport.
“The competition is vital, especially in and around London for getting lads off to a start,” said McCarthy-Scarsbrook. “For the likes of me, Tony Clubb and Jamie O’Callaghan it was a perfect way of coming through and getting seen.
“The fact that the competition now has over 100 teams playing in it is testament to what the sport means and, also, that it has broken down boundaries and perceptions.”
“It is a tremendous achievement and you know when you are playing in it that you are part of something really big.
“If I had a message for anyone trying the sport in the RLC, maybe for the first time, it would be to give it your all because it is a sport that pays you back in the kindness of the fans, the appreciation of all supporters and you won’t get team better bonding than this.”
RLC NATIONAL (10 teams)
RLC PREMIER (5 divisions)
Midlands (6 teams): Gloucestershire Warriors, Bristol Sonics, Birmingham Bulldogs, Coventry Bears, Leicester Phoenix, Derby City
North West (5 teams): Lymm Wolves, Wigan Riversiders, Runcorn, Widnes Saints, New Broughton Rangers
RLC REGIONAL (9 divisions)
Yorkshire (8 teams): Scunthorpe Barbarians, Victoria Rangers, Barnsley Broncos, Bradford Salem, Leeds Akkies, Wetherby Bulldogs, Lincoln City Knights, Parkside Hawks
Midlands (6 teams): Nottingham Outlaws A, Leamington Royals, Coventry Bears A, Birmingham Bulldogs A, Telford Raiders, NE Worcestershire Ravens
North West (5 teams): Blackpool Sea Eagles, Chester Gladiators, Crewe & Nantwich Steamers, Mancunians, Wigan Riversiders A
South West (8 teams): South Dorset Giants, South Somerset Warriors, Exeter Centurions, Somerset Vikings, Plymouth Titans, East Devon Eagles, North Devon Raiders, Devon Sharks
South East (8 teams): Swindon St George, Oxford Cavaliers, Guildford Giants, Southampton Spitfires, Sussex Merlins, Elmbridge Eagles, South London Storm A, Greenwich Admirals
East (6 teams): Norwich Saxons, St Ives Roosters, Bury Titans, Bedford Tigers, Northampton Demons, St Albans Centurions A
North East (10 teams): Jarrow Vikings, Peterlee Pumas, Winlaton Warriors, Whitley Bay Barbarians, Sunderland Nissan, Newcastle Storm, Northallerton Stallions, Cramlington Rockets, Durham Demons, Wallsend Eagles