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Sport North American Rugby League: Western division suspended until 2022

04:55  13 may  2021
04:55  13 may  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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The North American Rugby League's Western Division has officially suspended until 2022 due to insurance concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six teams in the Western Division - Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco and Portland - were planning on being based in the same complex in Nevada for the duration of the home-and-away season.

After a round robin and play-offs, the winner of the Western Division was scheduled to the play the winner of the six-team Eastern Division to determine the inaugural NARL champion.

Those plans changed this week when the NARL announced the Western Division was being suspended until next year.

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"Due to circumstances beyond NARL’s control, the six Western Division teams (Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco and Portland) will not be able to participate in match play this year," a statement said.

"While we have made tremendous advances in the development of these teams and the league as a whole, we have unfortunately been unable to secure the high level of insurance we feel is necessary to ensure that all of the players are adequately covered while playing for the NARL.

"The health and well being of the players and coaches is, obviously, a top priority for us, and we will not allow any of the athletes on the field without knowing they are very well protected.

"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the insurance problem for the Western Conference teams because those players would have been cohabitating and that created an issue for the insurers."

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Each round of matches was scheduled to take place in a Magic Round format, with all teams playing at the same ground on the same day.

The Western Conference was set to take place at a complex 130km north east of Las Vegas, while Eastern Division games are to be held in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Virginia and Cleveland.

Although the West won't play any matches in the 2021 season, scheduled to start in June, the NARL plans on playing a full season next year.

"While this situation is certainly not optimal, we believe (after thoughtful consideration) that it is the prudent approach to an unfortunate situation," the NARL said.

"The six teams will remain a part of the NARL and will be ready to participate in the 2022 match play.

"To all of our fans and supporters, thank you for your kindness and encouragement these past six months.

"We look forward to sharing the games of the Eastern Division teams every Saturday this summer and to delivering amazing rugby for many years to come."

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The NARL has been met with excitement in the US and Australia, with former NRL players Eddie Pettybourne (Brooklyn Kings) and Pita Godinet (Atlanta Rhinos) signing on.

Earlier this month, New York Freedom signed Tony Williams, but tore up his contract following social media comments he made regarding Jarryd Hayne's sentence.

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