Multicultural Rugby League association Heritage Rugby League (HRL) has experienced record growth with 24 affiliated community clubs and 1400 registered players set to participate in a new cross-cultural competition structure that will see 21 matches in six age grades staged over two days across Sydney this weekend (28-29 October).
Featuring teams representing Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Maori, Cook Islands, Philippines, Malta, Italy and South Africa, this weekend will host the largest number of multicultural Rugby League matches yet staged on a single weekend.
Previously, matches between NSW multicultural community heritage teams were held on an ad-hoc basis. But due to unprecedented growth in 2022, a new competition structure will be launched for the 13-a-side traditional format, featuring pools made up of teams from continental groups from Europe, Asia, Middle East Africa, Latin America and the Pacific.
Heritage Rugby League President Javed Hamidi said: “The launch of the 2023 season is a significant moment in the 25 years that heritage matches have been organised across NSW and we have witnessed record multicultural player growth.
“We now have a fixed schedule in advance of the season, with teams guaranteed matches, champions will be crowned, and communities will celebrate their culture, in approximately 65 matches in our first structured season. Some of the six international test matches, staged here in Sydney with the support of HRL clubs, will also count towards this structure.”
Hamidi said he is constantly surprised at the number of communities keen to play Rugby League: “In the past three months we have added Syria and Ukraine to Heritage Rugby League, with more expected to join soon.”
“We want to get word out to all of our communities to let them know that they have a Rugby League team to come out to play for, or support, over spring and summer.”
Heritage Rugby League is affiliated with the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) and is a key component of their multicultural engagement strategy, broadening and diversifying the game’s participation base, building community leaders, and helping recruit and retain multicultural players playing in mainstream rugby league clubs.
NSWRL and Heritage Rugby League aim to promote participation opportunities to more players, to bring local communities together to celebrate their culture and heritage, but also to encourage support of Rugby League development programs abroad, and to help grow the international game.
Heritage Rugby League successfully co-hosted the 2023 NSW Harmony Nines tournament with NSWRL two weeks ago in Albion Park on NSW’s South Coast.
The two-day event is the largest event of its kind in global Rugby League with a record 84 teams participating and supported by the City of Shellharbour Council, South Coast Group 7 Rugby League and Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles Junior and Senior Rugby League clubs.
NSW Rugby League Chief Executive David Trodden said: “The NSWRL is committed to making Rugby League a game for all and events like the Harmony Nines play an important role in encouraging players from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities to get involved.
“It is also exciting to see the growing number of multicultural players and teams transition from the Harmony Nines event to Heritage Rugby League competitions with the first structured Heritage Rugby League season kicking off this month.
“These matches are a unique part of Rugby League, and it is an important platform for the game to grow into new and emerging communities.”
Heritage Rugby League Continental Pools (in Open Men; Conference A mirrored in Open Women and junior age groups where possible)
· Pacific West: NSW Samoa, NSW Tonga, Ozzy Cooks.
· Pacific East: Fiji-Australia, NSW Maori, NSW Indigenous.
· Europe 1: Italy-Australia, Lebanon Heritage.
· Middle-East Africa: South Sudan, Syria.
· Asia: Japan, Philippines, Thailand.
· Europe 2: Malta, North Macedonia, Poland.
· Americas: Brazil, Chile, El Salvador.
For more information, go to: https://heritagerugbyleague.com/ or email email@example.com