As the sun sets on another riveting season of the USA Rugby League, fans and players alike are gearing up for the 2023 USARL National Championship. For the first time in US rugby league history, a team from the East will play a team from the West to claim the title. In a clash where the defending champions, Jacksonville Axemen, will lock horns with the spirited challengers from the West, the Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans. The stage is set for a monumental battle that promises to be one of the highlights of the North American rugby league calendar in 2023.
The Road to The National Championship:
The Jacksonville Axemen have carved an impressive path this season, leaving no room for doubt about their prowess on the field. With an enviable record of 5 wins and just 1 loss during the regular season, they've showcased their mettle time and again. Their journey was further punctuated by a resounding victory over the formidable Tampa Mayhem, with the Axemen emerging triumphant at 30-6 in the USARL South Finals.
At the helm of this powerhouse is Fullback and team Captain David Washington, a dynamic leader known for his strategic acumen and on-field prowess. But the Axemen's dominance isn't limited to the backline – their forward pack boasts the authoritative presence of prop Malcolm Webb, who earned the distinction of being crowned the USARL South Championship MVP. With this cohesive and well-rounded unit, the Jacksonville Axemen are dead set on retaining their championship status.
Across the field stands the Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans, a team that has captured the imagination of fans with their free-flowing style of play, tenacity, and honestly, their remarkable journey to the championship game. Although their route to the finals took an unexpected turn, losing the PCRL final to the Provo Broncos 36-13, fate dealt them a winning hand. Due to a player violation by the Broncos, the Dead Pelicans were named the champions of the West (read story).
The Dead Pelicans' ascent has been marked by extraordinary consistency, boasting an unbeaten record of 5-0-1 in the California division of the PCRL (the only draw was due to the canceled Magic Weekend in Fresno). Their standout performance was underscored by a staggering +202 point differential, speaking volumes about their ability to deliver both on attack and defense. Anchoring their lineup is the unyielding forward RJ Phillips, a physical presence that commands attention. Guiding the squad's fortunes is Captain Robert Beasley, whose audacious declaration, on a recent episode of Rugby League in America Podcast, that the USARL championship would be won by a West Coast team adds an intriguing narrative to the proceedings.
The Stage is Set:
The rugby league Grand Final in the United States awaits as the Jacksonville Axemen and the Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans prepare to collide in a contest of skill, strategy, and heart. The echoes of history and the pursuit of glory hang heavy in the air, setting the backdrop for a high-stakes encounter that promises to be etched in the annals of rugby league lore.
All roads lead to The University of North Florida in Jacksonville, FL, where the drama will unfold. As the clock ticks closer to kickoff, the anticipation grows exponentially. Will the Jacksonville Axemen cement their dynasty and lay claim to their fifth championship? Or will the Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans defy the odds, making good on Captain Beasley's bold pronouncement and clinching their maiden title?
Mark the date – Saturday at 6:30 PM – a date with destiny for both teams and a date with exhilarating rugby league action for fans around the world. For those unable to be present in person, the Axemen's official YouTube channel offers the chance to witness the spectacle for fans around the world.
With emotions running high, strategies laid bare, and dreams on the line, the 2023 USARL National Championship is poised to deliver a match for the ages. As players lace up their boots and fans ready to cheer, the rugby league community braces for an epic contest that will reverberate for years to come.