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CRL 2012 Season Review

(Toronto) The 2012 season was full of promise after the Wolverines had overcome some major hurdles in 2011 with their first international win against Jamaica followed by an amazing two point win over neighbours the USA Tomahawks. On the domestic front there was also much to look forward to with the continuation of a four team competition in Ontario and the arrival of the inaugural British Columbia competition on the horizon.

It is fair to say that British Columbia Rugby League exceeded everybody’s expectations in their first year with a solid five team competition and the British Columbia Bulldogs performing admirably in a home and away series against the Utah Avalanche and a third place finish at the recent Remembrance Cup. The fact that British Columbia was able to establish five clubs in its first year was a major achievement itself; however, it did not stop there as the cream of the crop formed a formidable BC Bulldogs representative team that demonstrated what a force British Columbia Rugby League will become over coming years.

At the conclusion of the domestic competitions the CRL announced that two worthy recipients would be heading to East Yorkshire to the famous black and white club of Hull FC. Twenty year old Chris Chalmers was selected from BC and Eighteen year old Graham Dobbs was selected from Ontario to take part in a 6 week scholarship to train with Hull FC’s Super League and Academy teams as well as playing with the East Hull Rugby League team. Both Chris and Graham were well received in Hull and were great ambassadors to the CRL and the growth of rugby league in Canada. Hull FC representative Lee Jenkinson commented “I think the future looks very bright for Canada Rugby League, to think that the game is in its infancy over there yet two of the first blokes we have seen, could go further in the game, then as long as players of this calibre keep on being produced, Canada Rugby League will keep on rising”.

The Canada Wolverines kicked off their 2012 season with a match against old foes Jamaica. The Wolverines team consisted of six players making there international debut, including Jared Curry as British Columbia’s first international representative and four players from the Ottawa Rhinos. The Wolverines started the match well, but failed to display the same dominance seen in 2011 and avoided some late scares with an 18 – 12 win. Whilst not the perfect start a lot could be taken away from the match with many new faces performing well. Another positive sign was the crowd in support on what had been a stormy Toronto day. Over 4,700 spectators turned out and were entertained by some big hits, bustling runs and exciting play in the closely contested match.

With 14th ranked Lebanon Cedars on their way over for the Canada’s second match, there was a need for the Wolverines to step up their performance. Fortunately, this is exactly what they did with an outstanding first half that saw Canada go into the dressing rooms with a 20 – 0 lead. The Wolverines were simply on fire in the first half, led by an imposing Keegan Watcham-Roy and backed up by four tries to the outside backs. The Lebanese came back fighting in the second half through scrumhalf James Boustani, however, the Wolverines had enough gusto to overcome the Cedars and the adverse weather conditions with an impressive 36 – 18 victory.

After arguably their best performance to date, the Canada Wolverines must have been confident of repeating there 2011 home defeat of the USA Tomahawks. Although the Tomahawks are now ranked in the top 10 rugby league nations in the world, the Wolverines must have fancied their chances of another upset over their higher ranked neighbours. A poor opening stanza from the Wolverines all but relinquished their chances of repeating history as the Tomahawks oozed confidence holding a 16 – 0 lead at half time. Just like their namesake it is not in the nature of the Wolverines to give up in battle and they came out fighting in the second half like they were a new team. Three quick tries after the break put the Wolverines back in the hunt trailing by just 16 – 14 with thirty minutes still remaining. However, two more tries to the Tomahawks gave them an unassailable lead heading into the last quarter. The Wolverines put in a late charge with two more tries to centre Geoff Bylund to score a hat trick, but it was not enough as the Tomahawks held on to a 28 – 24 win.

Game two of the Colonial Cup series required the Canadians to travel to Fairfax, Connecticut with the ominous task of beating USA by more than 4 points to take the Cup back north of the border. Like the first game, the USA players came out the stronger of the two taking a 12 – 2 lead into the break. Again, the Wolverines fought back to lead the game 14 – 12 midway through the second half. This is as close as the Wolverines would come to tasting victory as the Tomahawks edged away with four tries over the closing stages of the game to retain the Colonial Cup with a 36 – 14 triumph.

The final game of the season was always going to be the toughest for the Wolverines who were coming up against the undefeated Four Nations champions, the England Lions.  Over 5000 fans jammed in to Lamport Stadium for the much anticipated affair. The Lion’s rugby league experience showed with their ability to control the ball at a ninety percent completion. This was always going to be tough for the Wolverines to compete with and showed on the scoreboard as the English consistently went over for tries in the first half running up 40 unanswered points. In the second half the Wolverines again showed much more fight and were rewarded when winger Matt Pettie scored in the corner in a 68 – 4 loss.

CRL's Season Evaluation

Highlights: There was much to be excited about from the 2012 CRL season, starting with the emergence of British Columbia Rugby League. Not only was their inaugural competition of great success, but at the international level  they produced six Canadian representatives in their first season in Jared Curry, Daniel Blasco-Morris (Kelowna Crows), Chris Chalmers, Lincoln Bowman, Gurvinder Kalar and Zion Afele (Surrey Beavers). In addition, fellow newcomers the Ottawa Rhinos had four players make their debut for Canada, Graham Stevens, Justin Redguard, Keegan Wathcham-Roy and Ken Warring. This expansion has been encouraging to see in the early stages of Canada Rugby League’s development and there is much to look forward to in the future.

The crowd attendance for each of the 2012 internationals was a remarkable achievement for the CRL and the Wolverines team. Despite some adverse weather throughout the season the average attendance was 4198 specatators. The CRL will be looking to build on this momentum for 2013 and will continue to entertain their fan base with the exciting style of rugby league the Wolverines love to play.

The most gratifying success of the season came after the fact. Through their wins against Jamaica and Lebanon and close losses against the 10th ranked USA Tomahawks, the latest RLIF rankings saw Canada jump from 21st to 18th in the world. The Wolverines have a long term goal to make the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and will need to continue to rise up the rankings to prove they are serious contenders.

The Future: There has been much to like about the progress of Canada Rugby League and the Wolverines since their inception in 2010; however, they will be the first to agree that there is plenty of hard work to be done before becoming the rugby league powerhouse they dream of.  If 2012 is any indication however, the future looks epic.  




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