We are sorry to announce that Brian Juliff will stand down as Chair of Wales Rugby League as of August 1, 2023.
Brian has led Wales Rugby League since June 2012, but recent personal circumstances have led him into making this difficult decision.
Brian’s wife, Anne has been diagnosed with Myelofibrosis, a very rare form of blood cancer, with Brian now focussing his time on supporting her in her search to enhance her lifespan. Earlier this year, Anne was told that she would need a stem cell transplant to treat her diagnosis. Her search for a stem cell donor began five months ago, but so far, a matching donor has not been found.
Since 2012 and under Brian’s leadership, Wales Rugby League has seen the introduction of Wheelchair, Women’s, PDRL and Masters Rugby League teams at club and international level.
There have been notable achievements with Wales Wheelchair winning seven successive Celtic Cups (2016-2023) and reaching two World Cup semi-finals (2013 and 2022).
The men’s senior squad were unbeaten European Champions in 2015, runners up in 2018, and have qualified and participated in the three Rugby League World Cup competitions, as well as the 2019 Rugby League World Cup 9s tournament in Sydney.
The Wales women’s side won the European Championship B (North) crown in 2022, and have real aspirations of featuring in a first ever Women’s Rugby League World Cup. Cardiff Demons are back-to-back Women’s Super League South Champions and are proving to be a breeding ground for future Wales Internationals.
Brian has been involved in the development of two academies, initially in partnership with Maesteg School and one of his previous clubs, Wigan Warriors; and the second at Coleg y Cymoedd in partnership with Salford Red Devils. The latter is proving to be very successful with seven young Welsh players joining the Salford Academy programme and two signing first team contracts for this season.
In the community game, a milestone was reached in 2022 with over 2,000 players registered, more than half of them being under the age of 18, boding well for the future of the game in Wales.
Successes have not only been at a senior level. At youth level, Wales under 16s beat England for the first time ever in 2016, with further successes following on two occasions during 2022. Wales Students won the Rugby League Four Nations in 2012 – just 14 days after Brian became Chair, and the under 19s won bronze at the European Championships in 2018 and 2022.
A former Wales international, Challenge Cup, Championship, John Player Trophy and Community Shield winner, Brian has helped acknowledge and recognise the contributions of others with the introduction of the Wales Rugby League Hall of Fame, with the first members inducted in 2016.
Brian said: “I have enjoyed my time as Chair at Wales Rugby League and value the support I have received from so many wonderful people who have given their time to help grow the sport across Wales.
“It has been a difficult decision to step down but it’s absolutely the correct course of action. It has become increasingly more difficult for me to devote the time needed to Wales Rugby League as I focus my energy to support Anne with her treatment and also to raise awareness of the incredibly thoughtful charities who are working so hard to try to find the stem cell replacement that could save people’s lives.
“I’m proud of what has been achieved during my time as Chair, and I’m certain that with so many outstanding, passionate, and committed volunteers at all levels of the game and a very capable board of directors, the sport in Wales will continue to thrive. I’d like to thank all of those who have worked with me over the years and who continue to give their time to provide opportunities for people to play the great game of Rugby League.”
WRL President Mike Nicholas said: “I think he’s done a fantastic job. Bendigedig. He’s been unbelievable in providing massive stability and we’re going to miss him. He’s going to be a great loss to Wales Rugby League and hopefully stay on board or return in some capacity as it’s a setback to lose a person of his calibre. Best of luck Brian, I look forward to when we meet again at a Wales Rugby League event, and more importantly hope and pray that Anne finds a suitable donor.”
For someone with blood cancer or a blood disorder, an amazing stranger donating their stem cells could be their best chance of survival. If you come up as a genetic match, you could be that amazing stranger that could significantly improve Anne’s lifespan.
We are encouraging eligible people to sign up to the register to provide hope for anyone living with blood cancer. This can be with the Anthony Nolan Trust or DKMS. The Anthony Nolan Trust only accepts registrations from those aged 16-30, while those aged up to 55 can register with DKMS.
Once signing up to the register and completing a short questionnaire, those eligible will be sent a swab kit similar to a Covid test. This will be analysed to try to match for any of the any of the 250,000 people living with blood cancer in the UK, which of course includes Anne.
The process of appointing a new Chair of Wales Rugby League is ongoing.