The Nigeria Rugby League Association launched a historic women’s league at the weekend with Lagos Haven Women’s RLC becoming the first team to win a match with victory against Lagos Rhinos Women’s RLC in the Southern Conference at Eagles square on Saturday.
The women’s league – a first for rugby in Nigeria in both Rugby Union and Rugby League codes – runs alongside the men’s league which is in its second season and is a key part of the NRLA strategy to get more women involved in the game.
Vivian Onugha starred for Haven with three tries and one conversion as Haven ran out 24-0 winners.
Rukayat Akinade scored a try and Ifeoma Oguike added one try and one conversion for the victorious Haven.
Speaking after their historic victory, Haven Women RLC captain Onyinyechukwu Anyanwu lauded her side’s showing and predicted a bright future for the women’s league.
“Judging from the way we played, I think it was [a] fantastic [performance], she said. “This is the very first of its kind here in Nigeria, and I’m happy we [partook] in it, it’s interesting. Give it more time, there is still room for improvement, and I believe the league is going far.”
While Nigeria has a long-established Rugby Union tradition, Rugby League continues to grow in leaps and bounds since it was introduced in the country with the incorporation of the NRLA led by its chairman Abiodun Olawale-Cole and General Manager Ade Adebisi.
Nigeria hosted and won the second edition of the MEA Championship in 2018 with the chair of the Rugby League International Federation Graeme Thompson and the Director of Rugby League World Cup, Karen Moorhouse gracing the competition.
The establishment of a nine-team men’s domestic championship shortly after has now been complemented with a women’s league as the NRLA continues to deepen the sport and drive participation in the game among all genders.
While the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 slowed momentum considerably, the game has rebounded in 2021 with the commencement of the men’s league and the start of a league for women.
The establishment of a women’s team excites Anyanwu and she believes greater levels of sponsorship by private sector actors and improved welfare packages for players will turbo-charge the popularity and acceptance of the nascent women’s game.
“Yes, [the women’s league] is new. Actually, [Rugby League] has been existing, but for we the females, this is the very first time here in Lagos, Nigeria, that we are having a league for females under NRLA,” she said.
On growing the women’s league she said, “First of all, we’ll think of insurance for the players. If the players are properly insured, more players can come in and more sponsors can come in for the game, and I believe it’s going to be interesting.
“So, once there is insurance, there are more players, there are things to always look up to every weekend. It’s going to be greater by every weekend. That, I can assure you.”
Meanwhile, in the men’s league, Azeez Olarenwaju was the man of the match as Lagos Rhinos offset the disappointing performance of their women’s side with a 32-20 win against Lagos Broncos.
Olarenwaju posted four tries as Rhinos bagged their second win of the season with Malik Salihu and Kelechi Ezeh also scoring one try each.
In the day’s other encounter, Lagos Haven matched their female counterparts as they brushed Eko Trinity aside to make it four wins on the trot and maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
Elijah John scored two of Haven’s tries with Kiki Stephen, Kingsley Okolie, Daniel John, Lateef Olamide and Precious John all scoring tries with the latter also posting six conversions.
Sodiq Oduala and Nosa Agwose scoredTrinity’s tries with Monday Henry scoring one conversion.
2021 Nigeria Rugby League Southern Conference Week 4 Results
Lagos Havens RLFC 40 – 10 Eko Trinity
Lagos Broncos RLFC 20 – 32 Lagos Rhinos RLFC
2021 Nigeria Women’s Rugby League Southern Conference Week 1 Results
Lagos Haven Women’s RLC 24 – 0 Lagos Rhinos Women’s RLFC