BY NTIENSE WILLIAMS
New Board Emerges
The 2017 Rugby Season was quite eventful, ushering in a new Nigeria Rugby Football Federation Board headed by Kelechi Mbagwu.
South West Rugby League Debuts
Earlier in the year, “Friends Of Rugby” group started the South West Rugby League with eight teams in two divisions comprising four teams each.
Suspension By Afrique
However, the National Federation elections took center stage, with its after effects of a self-inflicted suspension imposed on Nigeria by Rugby Afrique due to the former president trying to arm twist and blackmail Nigeria rugby family towards perpetuating himself in office by imposing an illegal constitution to conduct the election against a generally agreed upon Nigeria Olympic Committee ratified election guidelines, which ushers in all the other 31 national sports federations.
Immediately thereafter, the Kelechi Mbagwe-led body appointed “Mr.Rugby” Ntiense Williams as Technical Director, with all concerned going down to work by bringing all rugby stakeholders together and starting meaningful rugby activities, working also with the continental body towards lifting the suspension.
Rugby debuts At National Junior Festival
Our first outing was in the National Junior Festival hosted by Kwara State, where rugby featured for the first time as a demonstration event, receiving huge praise and encouragement from the Honourable Minister of Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung.
Gosar Sevens Rugby Tournament at Ajegunle was used as a qualifier to select the three Lagos teams namely Cowrie Rfc, Racing Rfc & Dragon Rfc to compete in the prestigious Independence Sevens Rugby Tournament.
Kano Sevens took center stage to select the first set of northern representatives namely Barewa Rfc of Kano and Sabongeri Rfc of Zaria, for the Independence Sevens Rugby Tournament, with the second qualifiers in Zaria, which produced the 3rd team, Nasarawa Rfc.
Delta Rfc and Warri Rfc joined from the South South, while Abia Warriors came in from the South East region and the Kwara Rugby team got a wild card to complete the 10 domestic teams who were joined by Merlin’s Rfc from England and the defending champions Samurai Baracudas Rfc, who successfully defended their trophy in style at the prestigious Lagos Polo Club lush green turf.
Rugby Referees Training / Course
Preceding the Independence Sevens Rugby Tournament was the three days Rugby Referees Training / Course conducted by the World Rugby Educators and International Referees from Zimbabwe. This was very helpful towards upgrading our officiating standards and saw one of our domestic referees Mohamed Salisu officiate the finals with assistance from the two international referees from Zimbabwe and England.
Women Rugby Returns
The Independence Sevens Rugby Tournament witnessed the return of Women Rugby, which was won by Edo rugby team and the introduction of the schools version won by Barewa Rugby Academy from Kano State.
South West Rugby League Rounds Off
The South West Rugby League second phase which was suspended during the elections, held in November and December with the last three set of matches played at the National Institute for Sports pitch in Lagos. The league had two divisions with four teams each and six matches played by each team, totaling 48 matches in all.
Defending champions Cowrie Rfc won Division One followed by Police Rfc, Racing Rfc came third and last was Lagos Rfc, who also got relegated, swapping position with Division 2 winners Gosar Rfc, who gained promotion to Division One for the 2018 National Rugby League.
In second position in Division 2 was Panthers Rfc, followed by Eco 2 Rfc.Dragons Rfc came last and lost their place in the forth coming 2018 National Rugby League.
Beach Rugby Tournaments
There were two sets of Beach Rugby Tournaments namely; the Oniru Beach Rugby Tournament, which held for the first time and the traditional SandeeBeach TarkwaBay Rugby Tournament held at TarkwaBay Beach in Lagos. Both were won by Cowrie Rfc.
Schools Rugby Tournament
Eco 2 Rfc hosted a Schools Rugby Tournament at their Navy Town home ground featuring 12 schools in Lagos.
Beginners Rugby Coaching Course
The 2017 Rugby Season rounded off with a Beginners Rugby Coaching Course, with participants from 31 States of the Federation in attendance at the High Performance Training Center at Abuja National Stadium.
New Board Acquires New Office
Meanwhile in adherence to Rugby Africa request for good governance, the present board led by Mbagwu has just acquired a new office for a professional administration of the game in Nigeria going forward called “Rugby House”.
Also an all inclusive constitution of the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation is being drafted and will soon be presented for approval at the Extraordinary General Assembly early in 2018 in compliance with the Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports and Nigeria Olympic Committee requirement from all national sports federation going forward.
Following successful completion of beginners coaching course, rugby activities will spread to more states of the federation in 2018.