When Julien Treu and his teammates decided to start a rugby league association in Turkey, they knew the size of the challenge. It was not just players, they needed coaches to coach and teach the rules, match officials, playing and training facilities, administrators to run clubs, the league and the association plus, of course, kit and equipment.
Together with RLEF and especially Jovan Vujosevic’s support they held their first-ever match official course. At the same time, they launched an international beach rugby league tournament. It attracted attention and plenty of interest. Sixteen teams participated and also they held a women’s 9s game. It was a huge success bringing the fun of rugby league to people in Turkey – the main aim was achieved.
Around the world, Turkey has amazing heritage players who could be called upon. Players like Jansin Turgut, Aidan Sezer, Emre Guler, Arda Dalcik, Aydin Salman-Cochrane, Yusuf George Aydin, Ali Bokeyhan Surer and more who would emerge in the following months.
In 2018 Turkey fielded their first international teams. They competed in two international tournaments, winning its first-ever Balkan 9s tournament beating Serbia in the Final. Then they competed in the Emerging Nations World Championship held in Sydney Australia. They won three games out of four and left its mark on the international stage.
The next stage of the development was to create a player pathway and that started with the launch of an U18 competition. It was very popular amongst young people and supported by playing in the play-off for the RLEF European Youth Championship against Ukraine.
In its first season, Kadikoy Bulls become Champions, winning all six games. The other competing clubs were Kandira RL, Buffalos RL & Aqua Warriors RL, together they all made history.
TRL is looking forward to continuing growing Rugby League within all regions of Turkey, currently, TRL has an eight-team men’s competition (two divisions with four teams each), a women’s competition with four teams and the under 18 competition with four teams.
This year they are still hoping to be able to play their scheduled European Championship games at home and away against the Netherlands. Those games are scheduled to take place in Rotterdam on October 17 and the return fixture in Istanbul on October 24.
Turkey Rugby League Association (TRLA) President, Gurol Yildiz is keen to acknowledge the support of the RLEF and International Rugby League (IRL) saying;
“RLEF & IRL has done a huge job getting more nations involved in competing at all International levels.
“The support and sponsorship locally and from Australia has been tremendous, our management team from Australia has played a huge role in our development.
“When we founded the Rugby League association four years ago, we only had four teams. Today, we are a country with male, female and U18 leagues. Our men's national team consists of both local players in Turkey and heritage players blended together.
“Our U18 national men's team and women we represent our country with our national team in international platforms.
“In October we will play with the Netherlands at the European Championship is an indication is now taking firm steps forwards.
“I sincerely believe that the Turkish Rugby League community, which is growing with our young and potential player pool, will play a major role in the further development and recognition of this sport in the world.”