The Jacksonville Axemen Rugby League team has been bringing hard hits to Jacksonville FL since 2006. The team was founded by Head Coach Daryl “Spinner” Howland and General Manager Drew Slover as an expansion team of the American National Rugby League (AMNRL). Since their beginning they have developed into one of the most successful rugby league football clubs in the United States both on and off the field. They advanced to the AMNRL playoffs in 2006, 2008, and 2009, and won the 2010 AMNRL Championship. The following year they became one of seven teams to depart the AMNRL to form the new USARL (USA Rugby League), which began in the summer of 2011.
Over the years, the Jacksonville Axemen have included several exceptional rugby league talents, including former USA Tomahawk player Spinner Howland, former NRL and European Super League player Sean Rutgerson, and former NRL player and National Australian Kangaroo Shannon Hegarty. The Jacksonville Axemen roster has also included USA National Rugby League Tomahawks: Bob Knoepfel, Matt Clark, Kenny Britt, Akarika Dawn, Brent Shorten, Matt Thornton, Taco Pope, and current co-captain of the USA Tomahawks, Apple Pope.
Rugby League and the Jacksonville Axemen offer an exciting game day experience and draw an average of 2500 fans per regular season home game. In additional to the excitement on the field, each game day includes full concessions, $1 beer, prizes given away at half time, team merchandise for sale, and the always entertaining Axe-Maiden Cheerleaders. Complimentary programs are on hand to help newcomers learn the rules of rugby league, and the players greet the fans after every game to take photos and allow kids to collect autographs of their favorite players.
The Jacksonville Axemen have hosted several international rugby league events in Jacksonville, starting with the “Australia Day Challege” in January of 2008. The event was co-hosted by the Axemen and actor Russell Crowe, who is owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a professional rugby league team in Australia. Crowes team and the Superleague powerhouse team the Leeds Rhinos from England played the first international match of Rugby league in the United States. The event brought in over 12,500 fans from 40 States and 15 countries. In January of the following year the Axemen hosted the “Rhino Stampede to Florida” featuring a match-up between the Leeds Rhinos and the Salford City Reds, another professional rugby league team from England. The two teams were in Jacksonville for a 10 day training camp, and the event drew an estimated 7,000 fans to the city.