8 Jun 2023

The inaugural men’s and women’s Grand Finals have been played at the Kids of Africa Sports Centre, Bukasa. Isaac Mutyaba scored three tries and kicked two goals, and Benard Mubangizi crossed twice, as Beluga defeated Challengers 25-6 in the men’s decider, Florence Babirye the star for Baleen with six touchdowns as they beat Insomniacs 72-6 in the women’s.

The matches ended a week-long visit by a delegation from York RLFC who have been supporting the competition and development of the sport in the African country. York director of rugby, Lindsay Anfield, who headed the trip, said: “Coaching Ugandan club players whilst here, we have been overwhelmed by the talent, athleticism and understanding of rugby league on show.

“In addition, we have worked closely with Ugandan coaches helping to upskill them and instil confidence, together with running referee workshops and mentoring officials during the games. Medical protocols were run through with Ugandan volunteers, centred around player welfare and concussion.”

York’s party, which included five women’s players, also coached tag rugby in schools new to the sport, culminating in a tournament, together with the delivery of donated kits and equipment, whilst also helping to select Ugandan Academy players for 2023 after the finals.

“The games were absolutely fantastic. This trip has more than exceeded expectations,” Anfield added. “The standard of rugby league is outstanding, and the potential of both male and female players is breathtaking.

“We feel this adventure has more than left Ugandan rugby league in a better place and we could see the coaching, refereeing and medical understanding improving daily. The highlight was meeting the players and staff of each team, and we have definitely made lifelong memories. The next trip is already in the planning!.”

The York party also went to Murchison Falls and on a safari, as well as visiting Ziwa Rhino sanctuary.

RL Uganda director of rugby, Fortunate Irankunda, commented: “We cannot thank those who came from York enough for their help and guidance. Appreciating what talent they found here was a great compliment from all and we were so proud of it.

“The donations of balls, jerseys, boots and medical supplies will be used valuably in all our clubs and schools. The youngsters introduced to the game had a great tag experience in our feeder schools in Entebbe and Akright Bwebajja, and learned a lot. We are now excited to watch them play more and to see how they improve.”