Brighton & Hove RL hosted their first X-League session yesterday after several months of build-up and promotion via social media. Attendance topped the club’s expectation with 28 players turning up, many of them playing Rugby League for the first time.
“It’s great to see so many down” said Club Chair, Phil Ward. “We’ve been working really hard to get our marketing right and get everything sorted out with the RFL, so I’m really happy that it’s gone well. I was worried we’d only have a handful of people and I’d have to spend the whole session apologising!”
X-League has been promoted by the club as a key format for growing the game in Brighton – a limited contact variant that maintains a lot of the structure of the full contact game, while adapting some of the laws to ensure it remains accessible to a wide variety of ages, ability and fitness levels. Originating in Ireland as EuroTag, the game rebranded to X-League RL in 2020 and acts as stepping stone between the non-contact and contact variants of the game.
“We think social rugby is so important” Ward added. “For a lot of people the demands of the contact game are too high, not just physically but also in terms of the commitment required to be part of a team for a full season. A ‘turn up and play’ format has proven really attractive over the last few years in a variety of sports. The ability to play when you want, but not feel bad if you’re not feeling 100% that week or you’ve got something else on is key to keeping participation high. We’re also hoping that it will act as a great offer for people who have never played the sport before to try it in a lower pressure environment.”
The session attracted players from a range of different Rugby League backgrounds. The Brighton University Panthers, who compete in the BUCS South East League had a number of players down ahead of their return to training after COVID and there were various pieces of Sussex Merlins kit among the participants. Alongside players who are new to the club but with a history of playing or supporting Rugby League, it looks as though the demand for Rugby League in Brighton hasn’t died off just yet, although Ward was careful not to celebrate too early, “It’s a fantastic start, absolutely, but it’s just a first step. The job now is to work hard to make sure it stays enjoyable and to keep encouraging new people to try the game. Our training sessions for full contact men’s and women’s teams start in the next few weeks as well so we can’t rest on our laurels just yet!”
Want to get involved? Play Rugby League at BHRL.
You can see some photos of the session on our Instagram below.