25 Jun 2012

The Student Pioneers will be part of rugby league history in July when they will undertake the first ever Rugby League tour to Poland. Three matches will be played on the 1st, 4th and 7th as well as a series of training sessions to help the local players. The last few months have seen rugby league start to take its first steps in Poland. Led by Łukasz Łucka, the first rugby league club has been officially formed - the Łódź Rugby League Football Club (LRLFC) Magpies - and the Polish Rugby XIII has been informally created with the help from Dr Daniel Andruczyk, an US-based Australian scientist with Polish antecedents.

The GB Pioneers were formed in 2005 and is a team made predominantly from students that travels to new up and coming countries to help in their development. The Pioneers made their inaugural tour in 2005 to Estonia and have had successful development tours to the Czech Republic, Latvia, Ukraine, Norway, Kazakhstan and Greece.

Lucka’s plan is to focus on fresh players with no rugby experience whatsoever. “We have a young and promising team,” he said. “I'm sure that these boys with proper training could become the first generation of native Polish rugby league Players. Guys strongly identify with rugby league and they realize that they are writing the history of this sport in our country.”

Andruczyk, who has been working for some years to try and stir up interest for Polish rugby league, including several stints in Poland to work with the club and hold two coaching clinics, said: “This tour is so important for the players. It will be their first full taste of what it really means to play the sport, they will get to train and play against some great, experienced players. All the training sessions so far have been great, but if you want to keep interest you need to start playing actual matches, this is that first step for us.”

The Pioneers will play the Magpies in two matches and then the best of those players will be selected for a Polska XIII team that will play the Pioneers in a third match. The match will be played at the ZespóÅ‚ SzkóÅ‚ OgólnoksztaÅ‚cÄ…cych nr. 1, a Sports High School. Łukasz hopes that this tour will help spark more interest in the project. There is already support from the City with the President of Łódź and the British Honorary Consul named Honorary Patrons for the tour.

This year is the eighth GB Pioneers tour with 20 Student Rugby League representatives selected from 14 different universities from across all four home nations. The GB Pioneers aim to leave a legacy that will provided the Polish players with the basic knowledge and skills to introduce, develop and sustain rugby league in Poland.

GB Pioneers Team Manager Keith Sandhu said: “It is an exciting prospect for the GB Pioneers to go over to Poland and work with the Magpies and local community; the games will be a great way to showcase rugby league."

Steve Curtis, GB Pioneers Tour Manager added: “All the players and staff are excited about the tour to Poland, it is a unique opportunity to travel to a country and introduce something new.  Rugby league is a sport we all love and are very enthusiastic about, we would like to pass this passion across the Polish and give them the tools to grow the sport and build their own foundations.”

The Rugby league European Federation has also been assisting with the project. Jovan Vujosevic, RLEF Central and Eastern Europe Regional Director: “Poland is one of last remaining major states of Continental Europe to begin a rugby league project, and is bordered by four RLEF Member nations, so it is very encouraging to see the measured steps taken by the group in Łódź. They have investigated what needs to be done to achieve government recognition and have a committed group of players and volunteers.

"It’s early days yet but their approach has been realistic and sensible and I look forward to working with them to achieve a stable governing body. The visit of the Student Pioneers is sure to enthuse our Polish friends even further and I congratulate the Pioneers for the support they have already given to the Poles.”

Pictured: The Magpies learn the basics.