The brand-new Southern Conference League gets underway this weekend with teams from Wales, London and the East battling it out throughout the summer with the hope of reaching the Grand Final at the Aldershot Military Stadium on Saturday September 14.
Rugby League has had a presence in Bedford since 1997, but it wasn’t until 2004 that the Tigers were formed and entered the London League. Bedford Tigers are one of the most successful club in the history of East Rugby League with two Championships, five East RL Cups and two East RL 9s titles to their name.
Bedford are also working extremely hard off the field having recently taken over a brand-new sports facility. They have also created four satellite clubs in Bedfordshire which is providing Rugby League for around 300 players across four ages groups with a solid player pathway into the Tigers’ senior section.
The Tigers won’t get their 2019 Southern Conference League campaign started until early May being handed a bye in Round One of the competition, but there is no doubting they’ll be ready when they travel to North Herts Crusaders on Saturday 4th May.
Address: Great Ouse Way, Biddenham, Bedford, Bedfordshire, MK40 4WG
Colours: Black, White and Gold
Brixton Bulls were founded in 2004 as the only Rugby Leauge club in the London Borough of Lambeth. Originally just a junior club they have since grown exponentially and now run two men’s teams, a women’s team and four junior teams between the ages of 7 and 12.
The club is aiming to grow its junior offering in coming years by expanding their primary Rugby League programme to local schools and community centres whilst also hoping to further its offer to females wanting to get involved in the sport.
They have enjoyed success in the London Championship in recent seasons winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 which will give them confidence as they begin 2019 by making the short trip to South London Silverbacks in a huge derby.
Address: Woodmansterne Playing Fields, Stockport Road, London, SW16 5XE
Colours: Black and Gold
Cardiff Blue Dragons
Cardiff Blue Dragons have been a household name in Welsh Rugby League for many years with their birth coming from a need for Rugby League in the Capital city of Wales. The club will now be one of 14 teams to compete in the inaugural Southern Conference League and will be aiming to make an impact on a bigger stage.
The formation of the Southern Conference League now gives Cardiff’s open age teams two platforms to feature at with the Dragons continuing to field a team in the Welsh Premier League for the upcoming season to help grow and nurture the next generation of Cardiff-born players.
Cardiff Blue Dragons will face a tough test in their opening Southern Conference League – West Division fixture as they host fellow successful Welsh side Torfaen Tigers.
Address: The Memorial Ground, Sterling Road, Ely, Cardiff, CF5 4SR
Colours: Black with Blue and White Chevrons
Eastern Rhinos are one of the oldest Rugby League clubs in the Southern Conference League, originally forming in 1992 as Felixstowe Eastern before renaming to the Ipswich Rhinos and, more recently, the Eastern Rhinos. Their latest rebrand came in 2010 to help consolidate their second team and youth teams under one banner at a new base in Colchester.
The Rhinos have been a mainstay in both the Southern Premier League and London Premier League in recent years being the only club to have competed in every season and making the play-offs on every occasion. Their last two captains have come through the Rhinos’ junior set-up and they now have a number of players contracted to the London Broncos Academy.
They will begin their Southern Conference League campaign at Wests Warriors on Saturday 27thApril.
Address: Mill Road Playing Fields, Colchester, CO4 5JF
Colours: Blue and White
All Golds unique name and logo are in reference to a game between England and New Zealand which took place in Cheltenham at the Athletic Ground on Saturday 15th February 1908 when New Zealand beat England in a fixture which has become known as the Great Match of the Edwardian Period.
In more recent times, the All Golds competed in League One between 2013 and 2017 narrowly missing out on a play-off berth on a few occasions. In 2018, the club moved into the West of England League and were actually one of just two unbeaten sides last year winning the West of England title as well as the national Harry Jepson Trophy.
The All Golds will have a bye in week one of the Southern Conference League’s West Division but will get their season up and running a week later when they face Valley Cougars.
Address: St Peter’s RC School, Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL4 0DD
Colours: Home: Black. Away: Cyan Blue.
Hammersmith Hills Hoists
Hammersmith Hills Hoists were established towards the end of 2008 by a group of Australian ex-pats who lived in London and noticed that the West London area of Hammersmith, Acton and Shepherds Bush lacked a Rugby League side but had a number of potential players. Since the club’s formation, they have had players from 16 countries including some former NRL and representative players.
The club enjoyed a lot of success between 2009 and 2012 winning three consecutive London League titles, three consecutive ANZAC Rugby Challenge crowns and the RLC Southern Premier on two occasions, among other honours. The Hills Hoists will be hoping they can carry their success into the newly revamped Southern Conference League.
Hammersmith are at home in Round One of the 2019 Southern Conference League East Division as they will host North Herts Crusaders.
Address: Chiswick Rugby Club, Dukes Meadow, Dan Mason Drive, Chiswick, W4 2SH
Colours: Green, Blue and Gold
Hemel Stags have been a major talking point in Rugby League circles in recent weeks following their presentation to Betfred Championship and League One club’s proposing their vision to relocate to Ottawa, Canada. The Stags competed in Betfred League One between 2013 and 2018, finishing in 5th place on two occasions.
The club were formed in 1981 and, over the past 38 seasons, have competed in various incarnations of Southern and Eastern divisions before successfully applying for a position in League One. Hemel play in a small enclosed stadium at Pennine Way, have seven secondary schools which regularly play the sport under their tutorship and have a healthy representation in the London Broncos Scholarship and Academy squads.
In possibly the standout tie of Round One in the new Southern Conference League, Hemel Stags will welcome visitors London Chargers to Pennine Way.
Address: Pennine Way Sports Ground, Hemel Hempstead, HP2 5UD
Colours: Yellow (Home), Blue (Away)
Based on Clapham Common, the London Chargers formed when members from South London Storm and West London Sharks joined forces in 2013 to create South West London Chargers.
The club would enjoy immediate success winning the London League and Harry Jepson Trophy consecutively for three seasons. A rebrand to London Chargers followed and that also proved successful as they won the Conference League South in 2016. They have reached the Grand Final in every season since their inception and have played nine Coral Challenge Cup games in the past six seasons.
London Chargers will look to knock off the much-discussed Hemel Stags in the opening round of fixtures in the Southern Conference League.
Address: Old Blues Rugby Club, Dornans Fields, Arthur Road, Motspur Park, KT3 6LH
Colours: Maroon, Gold and Blue
North Herts Crusaders
North Herts Crusaders were formed in February 2012 and since their inception have enjoyed sustained success in East Rugby League competitions being named East England champions on three occasions and winning the East Cup twice. They also competed in the 2018 Coral Challenge Cup.
The Crusaders are reintroducing junior sides in 2019 to complement their two open age teams starting with an U13 age group. The club have ambitious growth plans for the next five years and will be looking to make a big impact in the Southern Conference League.
North Herts travel to Hammersmith Hill Hoists in the first round of the Southern Conference League’s East Division and will be looking to get off to a winning start.
Address: Hitchin Rugby Football Club, King George V Playing Fields, Old Hale Way, Hitchin, SG5 1XL
Colours: Sky Blue and White (Home), Royal Blue and White (Away)
South London Silverbacks
Founded in September 2015, South London Silverbacks brought Rugby League back to the London Borough of Bromley playing their first competitive fixture in 2017 following 18 months of careful planning.
The Silverbacks are one of the newest teams who will compete in the Southern Conference League, but they will be hoping this serves them well and they can take the revamped league by storm.
They will face a tough test in Round One however as they compete in a massive South London derby against Brixton Bulls.
Address: South London Silverbacks, 2 Hawsbrook Lane, Beckenham, BR3 3SR
Colours: Black and Red
Swindon St George
Rugby League was prominent in Swindon between 1980 to 1995 thanks to the Swindon Bulldogs, but it wasn’t until former Bulldogs players formed a committee of a new club – Swindon St George – in late 2007 that Rugby League was back on the map in the West of England.
Swindon have donned a St George Cross over the front and back of their kit since their formation competing in leagues such as West Midlands Division, London and South Division and now the Southern Conference League.
St George will begin their 2019 season in the West Division by facing Valley Cougars at their Supermarine Sports Club.
Address: Supermarine RFC, Supermarine Road, Swindon, SN3 4SY
Colours: Red and Black
Torfaen Tigers, formed in April 2003, joined the Welsh Division of the Rugby League Conference and finished 3rd in their inaugural season. They are based in Pontypool in Monmouthshire.
The Tigers managed to reach the Welsh Premier Division Grand Final as early as 2005 but fell to defeat against Bridgend Blue Bulls. Torfaen would eventually be crowned champions in 2013 defeating Valley Cougars in the final. This Welsh rivalry continued in the 2017 and 2018 Grand Finals, but Torfaen were on the losing side on both occasions.
Torfaen will visit fellow Welsh side Cardiff Blue Dragons in Round One of the Southern Conference League.
Address: New Panteg RFC, New Rd, Pontypool, Torfaen, NP4 0TL
Colours: Black, Orange and White
Valley Cougars are the last of three Welsh sides competing in this year’s Southern Conference League West Division. They were originally founded in 2001 as Cynon Valley Cougars but dropped the Cynin from their name after just one year. The Cougars are based Treharris, Merthyr.
Valley Cougars enter the brand-new Southern Conference League as back-to-back winners of the Welsh Premier Division Grand Final in which they beat fellow West Division side Torfaen Tigers on both occasions. The Cougars had previously won the competition in 2008 against the Blackwood Bulldogs and in 2010 defeating the Bridgend Blue Bulls.
They face a tough journey to Swindon St George on Saturday 27th April in the first round of fixtures.
Address: Treharris RFC, 25 The Ferns, Treharris, CF46 5LQ
Colours: Pink and Blue (Home), Black, Pink and Blue (Away)
Wests Warriors were established in 2014 and are based out of Acton in West London. The majority of their squad is made up of expat Kiwis and Australians, however the club’s success in recent seasons has seen them draw players from many different cultures and ethnicities.
The club are remembered for their 2017 Coral Challenge Cup heroics when they progressed to Round Three of the competition defeating Great Britain Police and Featherstone Lions on route. They have competed in three successive London Premier League Grand Finals, winning the title in 2016. The Warriors have also won 9s competitions in London, Budapest and Rotterdam.
Wests have a home fixture on the opening weekend of the Southern Conference League as they go head-to-head with Eastern Rhinos.
Address: Twyford Avenue, London, Greater London, W3 9QA
Colours: Black and Green