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Rugby League Journey For India

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

It’s always exciting to be part of something new. Whether it’s a start up that creates a new market or a project like the one I’ve just embarked on such as Rugby League.

Rugby League is fast, physical and requires a high level of fitness and stamina. It isn’t difficult to understand, is played by boys and girls, men and women and is growing fast. You can play using the physical tackle or with tags where there is no person to person contact at all. Good for these times.

In 2021 the Rugby League World Cup will be played in England and feature a Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournament played at the same time. I am hoping to make it over to see some of the action. The tournament includes teams from Canada, Brazil, Jamaica, Greece, Australia and England - an incredibly diverse range of nations will come together. My ambition is that India can join them by 2025!

The origins of the Rugby League World Cup go back to the 1950's and the winners trophy is named after the tournament’s visionary France’s Paul Barriere. The origins of Rugby League go back to 1895 when it was founded on the principle of giving an equal opportunity for all those playing the game. We want to carry this legacy of equality into the development of the game across India.

It was great to be at the first Rugby League tournament played in Bangalore in January. It was exciting to see a group of young athletes fired up for the games, even better to see the Bangalore team, the ‘Broncos’ take the win. It was a close fought final with Bangalore overcoming a visiting team from Kolkata. These young players and more will become our elite players, taking on the challenge of popularising the game and playing international fixtures.

Action between the Eels and the Jaguars

As part of our strategy we want more and more people to see the game and enjoy its fast paced action. Get behind their team from Delhi to Chennai, Mumbai to Imphal. Get the game trending on social media and maybe soon on TV, if we all come together it can happen. Who isn’t inspired by the progress of Pro Kabaddi.

During our first couple of tournaments we have been lucky to receive support from the Australian Consulate network. This Included the attendance at our Kolkata tournament from Australian High Commissioner Hon Barry O’Farrel, I enjoyed one of his quotes particularly, “As a passionate league fan, I was delighted to see the players skills and the enthusiasm and spirit with which they played the game.”

Ankit and Andrew(from Aus high commission) presenting the winner's trophy
Winner takes it all! Broncos celebrate their maiden win

If you Google NRL you will see how big the game is in Australia. We’ll need their support as Australia is the top League team in the world. While we can teach them a thing or two about cricket, we hope they can teach us more about League.

Like the IPL has welcomed Aussie cricketers, who knows one day we may see some Indian players in NRL team colours. It’s a dream, but that’s a start.

To build the dream we need to focus on grassroots and player development. This is why I’ve been involved in Simply Sport Foundation, to support athlete and player development. Simply Sport will also lend support to Rugby League and support in mapping out our strategy for the game. We’ve also been leaning on Paul Walsh and his knowledge of sports development across India. If you don’t know him, google ‘Jungle Crows’ and you will be truly inspired by the work they have done over the years!

Teams gather for a quick picture after the tournament

These are exciting times across the broadest spectrum of sports in India. Whether you are supporting the hunt for olympic medals or passionate about giving every youngster the chance to play safely, there is so much going on.

And now added to that mix is Rugby League, the people’s new game!

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