New York to join rugby league pyramid – and go step further than Toronto

START spreading the news – rugby league is going to New York.

The side from the Big Apple will follow Canadian new boys Ottawa Aces into the sport’s third tier, League One, in 2022.

But it will be in next year’s Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup, which features non top flight sides, as well as facing three NRL clubs, two national teams and Super League sides at the 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena, just a six mile drive from Newark Airport.

The team will be full-time and players will live in New York, unlike Toronto Wolfpack’s who are largely based in Manchester.

And chief executive Ricky Wilby believes even though they will not be in the league, what they do in 2021 can prove their intentions are real and it is not pie on the sky.

He said: “It gives us an opportunity to prove we should’ve been in in 2021 and show what we can do. There was an initial sense of disappointment.

“It’s really exciting that we’ve got those NRL teams coming to the States.”

With about 12 players – 12 more than Ottawa – already lined up, including current Super League and NRL stars, it is hoped a squad of 22 or 23 will be formed by next year and a coach is in New York’s sights, with former St Helens boss Mick Potter linked.

There are also hopes to snap up current USA internationals and bring through local talent.

Unlike Toronto, if they are drawn at home in the Challenge Cup, games will be played in New York – with no waiting around because of the weather.

They are also going a step further than the North American trailblazers as teams will be put up at the Hilton hotel at Newark Airport.

Previously, travelling sides were housed at a Toronto university halls of residence, with claims some pre-match meals were at a branch of sandwich chain Subway!

And it will cost clubs nothing as New York will meet travel, accommodation and visa fees for games that will be played in blocks of two home and away.

Teams will fly on Thursdays, games will be played on Saturdays and they will return home on Monday mornings.

Wilby, who gave up a well paid job as Catalans Dragons’ UK co-ordinator to pursue the American dream, insists two unnamed backers have guaranteed to finance the new boys for five years.

Their partnerships, including ones with Hilton, Mastercard, kit supplier VX3, the city of Liverpool, the city of Elizabeth in New Jersey and an airline, also show they are serious.

As do talks with two streaming services over broadcasting their matches, which he hopes to get between 20 and 30 of next year.

“That gives us a chance to sign a certain calibre of player that will at least allow us to be competitive,” Wilby added.

“We’ll be looking in the UK, France and in Australia but will make a real effort to recruit either USA internationals or players who are eligible for the USA.

“And the thing we’ve got is players we sign will be living in New York rather than in the north of England.”

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