The Roar
The Roar


Why a letter to V'landys and a rugby league Elvis wedding means it will be on for young and old in Vegas

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29th February, 2024

If rugby league thought silly season was about to end with the start of actual football, beginning the year in Las Vegas ensured that it would last at least a week longer.

Dropping a hundred or so footy players into Sin City – not to mention tens of thousands of fans – will undoubtedly result in some wild stories come the flight home next week, but here’s one that is already slated to happen: did you hear about the Rugby League Elvis wedding?

It’s got the King as the officiant, a Steeden instead of a ring, an acting half as a best man, a groom in a jersey, a long-suffering bride and a global broadcast. Oh, and it’s all part of an international gathering of rugby league players.

The wedding is the brainchild of rugby league fan Nicholas Mew, who will be at the altar and on the park for Canada Grizzlies, the Masters national team facing off against their Australian and American counterparts.

“My wife Carrie is accompanying me to Las Vegas, and she does not normally come with me to rugby league events,” he told The Roar.

“I asked her what she’d like to do while we’re in Sin City and she decided that she wanted us to renew our wedding vows in one of the Las Vegas wedding chapels, with an Elvis impersonator as officiant.

“Given the reason we’re in town, the theme is rugby league – I’ll be wearing my Canada national team jersey and all the men will be wearing rugby league jerseys too.


“My good friend Bob Jowett, a former president of Canada Rugby League and the man who brought me to the sport, will be my “acting half” instead of best man, and provide a rugby ball instead of a ring for the ceremony.

“We’re allowed six guests, and have invited two other couples who we have met through rugby league.

“It’s going to be livestreamed and the video of the ceremony will be available on the chapel’s website and open for public comments – that’s the chance we’re taking, but I’m confident the rugby league community will be supportive!”

The renewal ceremony will be for invited guests, but the main reason for the trip will be much bigger: the Masters Rugby League festival.

Masters, for the uninitiated, is rugby league based on the George Bernard Shaw quote that players do not stop playing because they grow old, but rather grow old because they stop playing.


Players must be over 35, and wear different coloured shorts based on physical capacity, with the goal that everyone should be able to play with everyone in a low-impact version of the sport designed around enjoyment rather than competitiveness.

It has proven successful in introducing league into new parts of the globe, with Toronto hosting a festival in July 2023 that sparked interest in this year’s event in Vegas.

“We had several nations in Canada, we could speak to them in person, and we now had some experience with putting on an international event,” explained Mew.

“At the time, there were reports of the NRL going to Vegas, and Canadian players and fans were talking about going down to watch if it happened.

“So were some of our Australian Masters guests, so I thought: if we’re all going to all be there anyway, why not see what we can put together.

“The Australians assured me they’d have to turn away potential players, such would be the interest. We also contacted the Americans, who were immediately on board and eager to make it happen.”

“Simply trying to book a pitch, arrange athletic trainers, find an after-event social venue, and make sure insurance was in place would have been impossible without the help of Billy Neilson of the USA Rugby League (USARL), who was our American point of contact.


“Billy’s connections and efforts got us a pitch, a social location, and the USARL provided the field coverage for the venue.”

On planning the event, the organisers immediately reached out to Peter V’landys and the NRL.

“I wrote an old fashioned snail mail letter, explaining what we were about and explicitly stating that we weren’t out for money – just exposure and the chance to tell people that we exist and that we’re fighting for rugby league in Canada.

“We were all pleasantly surprised when we got a response, and Mr. V’Landys assigned a staffer to liaise with us.

“We didn’t ask for assistance in organising the event, but we didn’t want to step on any toes either.

“We began work with the USA RL and Canada Rugby League (CRL) to arrange a joint event and that has proven to be incredibly positive.  In future years, we want to work more closely with the NRL as well as the national teams of Canada and the US and hope that everyone can sit down to align schedules more beneficially. 

An Elvis impersonator wields a Steeden with Las Vegas showgirls. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for NRL)

An Elvis impersonator wields a Steeden with Las Vegas showgirls. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for NRL)

“But it’s a first time for everybody.  It’s not going to be perfect.  We’re going to learn as much as we can and improve for next year – and we intend to do this every year the NRL comes to North America.”

It might be small, but Masters can be a vital way of bringing people into the game, especially given local laws and regulations, as well as creating a virtuous circle across other areas of the game.

Notably, at the World Cup in 2022, the Masters team who visited England for their festival could be seen supporting the Canada Ravens, who were competing in the Women’s World Cup.

“As it stands right now rugby league is not recognised as an official sport in Canada,” said Mew. 

“Once that status is attained it, opens up access to important government programs and funding – but to achieve that recognition there needs to be players, teams, and structures in a certain number of provinces.

“According to the most recent government documents I’ve seen this must include sport at all levels: women and men at the open age, youth teams and also those in the older category. It has to be sport for all. 


“If we can use this event, and what we’re doing overall, to increase the number of participants that is one box ticked.

“In 2018, there were no Masters teams in Canada or, actually, anywhere in North America. Now, we have multiple teams in Ontario and British Columbia as well as the USA.

“We’re not just a bunch of older players who show up for a run out and a drink. We have people who have coaching experience and the desire to do more. 

“Others are keen to help organizationally and have already taken on key roles. Business connections have brought in significant funding.

“Masters is definitely something the community can coalesce around, and it’s also creating the circumstances for the community to work together at multiple levels.

“We can get people out, we can drive national and international attention, and with new people involved we can also take on leadership roles.

“We have been able to draw more attention for what we’re doing as a result of Las Vegas than anything we’ve had before.”