Expansion Ottawa Aces rugby league team plans Canadian tryouts in the fall

Expansion Ottawa Aces rugby league team plans Canadian tryouts in the fall

The Ottawa Aces want you.

The fledgling transatlantic rugby league team is planning tryouts for elite Canadian athletes in the fall in Ottawa, pending any COVID-19 restrictions. Those who survive the combine/tryouts will earn a pro contract with the club, set to begin play in the third-tier Betfred League 1 in 2021.

“Rugby league is one of the toughest, most exciting sports on the planet. It requires strength, skill, bravery and athleticism. We at the Ottawa Aces believe these are qualities Canadian athletes have in abundance,” the team said in a statement.

“The question is, do you have what it takes to become a full-time professional rugby league player? The Ottawa Aces want to know. And if the answer is yes, we want you on our side. Whether you’re a football player, rugby player, hockey player or just a gifted athlete who thinks you can play the greatest game of all, this is your chance to prove it.”

The Aces, noting its fall combine is only open to those with a Canadian passport, say resumes, inquiries and footage should be sent to info@ottawaaces.com.

Trialists who make the cut can expect to spend four to five months of the year in England with the team, which will divide its time on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Ottawa franchise, which will play out of TD Place Stadium, is the brainchild of Eric Perez, founder and first CEO of the Toronto Wolfpack. Perez and his 26-member consortium bought the license to England’s Hemel Stags in September 2018, with a view to moving the franchise to Canada — with Ottawa its new home.

Perez looks to start signing international players in June but wants a local flavour to his club.

“I feel it’s important that if you’re playing in Ottawa, you have to be Canada’s team,” he said in an interview. “So you have to have Canadian players in the side.”

“My goal is to have as many Canadians as possible in the side and help build Canadian rugby league,” he added. “And have these players play for us and play for the national team as well. And hopefully get the national team in the World Cup.

“It’s a long-term strategy and it’s also, I think, a strategy that will bear fruit right away because I think we have the kind of athletes that can make a difference.”

League 1 currently features 11 teams, nine from England and two from Wales.

The Toronto Wolfpack, who have climbed their way into the top-tier Super League, held tryouts in Canada, the U.S. and Jamaica prior to their inaugural 2017 season in League 1. Eighteen finalists were selected to train with the club in England and play in a game against a local club, Brighouse Rangers ARLFC.

The trialists’ journey was documented in a show called “The Last Tackle.”

American Joe Eichner, Jamaican Nathan Campbell and Canadian Quinn Ngawati were the three players to eventually earn contracts. Ngawati remains with the team, re-signing in March after stepping away in October 2018 after a handful of appearances.

The Victoria player has been assigned to League 1’s Rochdale Hornets while training with the Wolfpack.

Ngawati is the first Canadian-born player to play pro rugby league according to the Canada Rugby League Association, the governing body of the sport in Canada.

Former Wolfpack players Rhys Jacks and Tom Dempsey were Canadian internationals via their bloodlines. Both were born and raised in Australia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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