By Ntiense Williams
The 2017 Rugby Season was quite eventful, ushering in a new Nigeria Rugby Football Federation Board headed by Mr Kelechi MBAGWU.
Earlier in the year, “Friends Of Rugby” group had started the South West Rugby League with 8 Teams in two Divisions of 4 Teams a piece.
However, the National Federation elections took centre 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 in aiding the perpetuating of himself in office by imposing an illegal constitution to conduct the election against a generally agreed upon Nigeria Olympic Committee ratified election guidelines, which ushered in all the other 31 National Sports Federations.
Immediately thereafter the Kelechi Mbagwu led Rugby Federation Board appointed “Mr.Rugby” Ntiense Williams as Technical Director and they all got down to work by bringing all rugby stakeholders together and started meaningful rugby activities, working also with the continental body towards lifting the self-imposed suspension on Nigeria Rugby.
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.
The 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 centre 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.
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 officiating the finals with assistance from the two international referees from Zimbabwe and England.
The Independence Sevens Rugby Tournament witnessed the return of Women Rugby, which was won by Edo Female rugby team and the introduction of the Schools version won by Barewa Rugby Academy from Kano State.
The South West Rugby League second phase, which was suspender during the elections, resumed from November to 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 bring it to a total of 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 gains promotion to Division One for the 2018 National Rugby League.
In second position in Division 2 was Panthers Rfc, followed by Eco 2 Rfc and Dragons Rfc came last and lost their place in the forth coming 2018 National Rugby League.
There were two sets of Beach Rugby Tournaments namely the Oniru Beach Rugby Tournament debuting for the first time and the traditional SandeeBeach TarkwaBay Rugby Tournament held at TarkwaBay Beach in Lagos. Both were won by Cowrie Rfc.
Eco 2 Rfc hosted a Schools Rugby Tournament at their Navy Town home ground featuring 12 schools in Lagos.
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.
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 in its draft stage, which 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.
From the recently completed beginners coaching course, it is promising that rugby activities will soon spread to new states of the federation in 2018.
Williams is Technical Director of Nigerian Rugby Football Federation