Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The Al Ain Amblers Rugby Club has proved itself capable of hosting big events such as when the UAE, in black, hosted South Korea, in white, for an Asian Five Nations match.
The Al Ain Amblers Rugby Club has proved itself capable of hosting big events such as when the UAE, in black, hosted South Korea, in white, for an Asian Five Nations match.

Rugby League Cup: Al Ain Amblers ground a fitting stage

Al Ain Amblers ready for another bid day to cap a season of triumph as the club has become a 'success story' in the 15-man code with its large membership and showcase grounds.

Al Ain Amblers may be out of the running for the main prize in Friday's Rugby League Cup final at their Palm Sports Resort home in the Garden City.

However, the host club will be afforded another chance to show that, when it comes to staging the sort of festival days on which club rugby thrives, nobody does it better.

Sol Mokdad, the chief executive of the Rugby League Commission, hopes the final between Mana Dubai and Abu Dhabi Harlequins will be watched by the biggest crowd ever for a domestic rugby match in this country.

Such records are not formally kept, but the attendance is still likely to be appreciable for the finale of the first domestic competition in the 13-man code. Judged by the experience of a triumphant year in Al Ain, the host club will be able to cope with the demand.

This will be the third major men's event the Amblers have staged this season, following their annual leg of the UAE Sevens Series and the Test match between UAE and South Korea.

The club now has around 2,000 members and generates millions of dirhams in food and beverage sales for their landlord each season. The rugby club accounts for more takings than the equestrian, golf and shooting clubs, who share their same plot, combined.

The health of the club marks a significant turnaround from the 2011/12 season. Back then, the first XV were regularly struggling to meet their playing commitments.

The club was also reeling from having been forced to cancel a high-profile friendly fixture involving the champions of England, Saracens, and their Fijian equivalents, Nadroga Stallions.

"Our egos might be a bit battered, but if we continued going down the road we were potentially heading down, we would have lost our club," Kit Philp, the club's then-chairman, said at the time.

The hard times were a reminder that clubs in this country are beholden to the transience of the population supporting them.

Despite the upwards curve they have been on this time around, they are unlikely to lobby for a rushed return to top-tier rugby, and again may only enter one team in regular competition next season.

"It is sustainable because, even though we do have the dips and fluctuations, it is never across the board," said Jody Haddow, the club captain. "We have had a two- or three-year decline in the adult men's team in terms of the number of skilled players.

"Every once in a while, an individual team may suffer because of the fluctuation in expats going through Al Ain, but the club as a whole can cope because we have such a big membership."

The Amblers, who have an Arabic-speaking rugby development officer, are regarded as one of the success stories in growing the sport by the administrators of the 15-man code.

"Al Ain rugby club is a strong social and community centre in the city," said Ian Bremner, the chief executive of the UAE Rugby Federation. "Al Ain as a club pray every September that there will be teachers, medical and Army personnel coming in to make viable numbers. By turning their attention towards the local population, they are looking at a much more sustainable model for years to come."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Mitchell Johnson of Kings XI Punjab bowling in the IPL match against Rajasthan Royals at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah on Sunday. Pawan Singh / The National / April 20, 2014

IPL Day 5 action in Sharjah

Images from the fifth day of the Indian Premier League in the UAE on Sunday, with Kings XI Punjab beating Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets with eight balls remaining.

 Raheem Sterling of Liverpool scores the opening goal against Norwich City on Sunday at Carrow Road. Michael Regan / Getty Images / April 20, 2014

In pictures: Sterling, Suarez inch Liverpool closer to title

Raheem Sterling, with a double, and Luis Suarez accounted for all three goals in Liverpool’s 3-2 away win over Norwich City on Sunday, leaving them five points up on Chelsea with three left to play.

 Manager Matt Williams benching star Bryce Harper, above, may have sent the wrong message to the rest of the Washington Nationals. Mike Ehrmann / AFP

Benching Harper sends Williams’s right message the wrong way

Matt Williams, the Washington Nationals manager, made the biggest move of his 18-game tenure on Saturday, benching rising star Bryce Harper for his “lack of hustle”.

 Arsenal's Lukas Podolski celebrates his second goal during the Premier League match against Hull City at The KC Stadium in Hull, England, on April 20, 2014. Lynne Cameron / AP Photo

Arsenal maintain push for top-four finish with victory at Hull

Hull could end up in Europe regardless of the FA Cup final result if Arsenal finish in the Uefa Champions League places

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Stanislas Wawrinka turned away fellow Swiss Roger Federer with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 victory at the Monte Carlo Masters on April 20, 2014. Julian Finney / Getty Images

Wawrinka backhands Federer aside at Monte Carlo Masters

Stanislas Wawrinka won the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time after rallying to beat Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in a rare all-Swiss final.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National