Thor Primed for Kings
By Brian Lowe Photos by Allene Rachal
The countdown is on for the 2018 USA Rugby League national championship game and both the 121 Financial Jacksonville Axemen and Brooklyn Kings will be looking to stamp their authority on the USARL competition.
The two teams will square off in Jacksonville, Florida, this Saturday evening in what will be a battle of the unbeatens.
Both are 8-0 going into the title showdown having swept all before them through the regular season and thus far in the playoffs.
For Axemen forward Taylor Youngling, it will be his fourth appearance in a national championship game having played for Jacksonville the previous three times they got this far in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Thor, as he’s more affectionately known among his teammates and Axemen fans, is now in his fifth season with Jacksonville having made the switch from rugby union in 2013.
He played rugby while studying at the University of North Florida from 2009 through 2012.
Youngling says playing for a national title never gets old and he and his teammates are primed for the big occasion.
“It’s extremely cool,” he says.
“There’s several of us that have faced the 2013, 2014, and 2016 national title losses and heartache together.
“We are all hungrier than ever to have a win under our belts. To be able to look back and say yes, we were the best.”
The Axemen do have a prior national championship to their credit. It was in 2012, in just the second season of the USARL after it had replaced the previous national governing body the American National Rugby League.
Since the USARL took over, Jacksonville have been the runners-up more often than any other club.
Brooklyn has yet to win a title.
As the Axemen continue to set their game plans and tactics for the challenge ahead, Youngling says their preparations have been somewhat curtailed by a lack of available film on the Kings, leaving them a little unsure of exactly what to expect.
“We’ve had trouble finding reliable footage of Brooklyn but from what we have seen, their strength lies in their outside backs,” says Thor.
“Their centers look strong and athletic as do their wings. If we can shore up a strong defense in those positions in response, I’m confident we can win out the grind.
“It won’t be easy, but rugby league isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s a tough sport and if you want to win you’ve got to go in with a plan, execute it, and out grind the other team until they break first.”
The national championship game will be played at UNF this Saturday, August 25, 2018 with a scheduled kickoff time of 7pm EDT.
If you can’t make it to the game, it will be streamed on the Facebook page of iknowjax.com.