Intrepid New Yorkers and a handful of hard-hitting Aussies are bringing a fast-paced sport to the borough.
The Brooklyn Kings Rugby League Football Club donned its crown earlier this year and played its first match on May 31, tying a Rhode Island club ranked third in their league.
The Kings are building their castle in Brooklyn — with practices held at McCarren Park and home games played at Midwood Athletics Complex — because of the borough’s undeniable cachet, a team founder said.
“The Brooklyn brand is huge — we didn’t want to just be in ‘Manhattan, NYC,’” said Matt Bailey, an Australia native living in Bushwick.
There are already a few rugby teams in New York, but most are based in Manhattan, and the Kings wanted to go their own way, another founding member said.
“We were walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and decided we should start our own rugby team because we didn’t want to play for any of the others in town,” said captain Justin Coffman.
The pair pitched the team to the United States of America Rugby League and started recruiting players via social media and word of mouth. A few “import players” from Australia are teaching the rest how to rule the field, but most of the players are Brooklyn and Queens residents who have a background in football, said Coffman.
“We have a lot of raw guys that just came out, and they’re excelling,” he said. “Some of them saw us practicing at McCarren Park and just walked up.”
Bailey said the sport, which is wildly popular in Australia and starting to catch on stateside, is faster-paced than its long-lost cousin, American football.
“It’s constant — there’s no stoppages after each down,” he said, adding that the game is harder-hitting, too. “It’s like 13 linebackers against 13 running backs.”
The Kings are lining up major sponsors, with Williamsburg’s Kent Ale House and Red Hook’s Six Point Brewery already on board, Bailey said.
Once the Kings settle their court, the team will look to expand its kingdom in partnership with Midwood Athletics Complex, Bailey said.
“I want to develop a relationship and create youth programs,” he said. “I see grassroots as a way of developing the sport in this country.”