'Hullbania' and Hull Dockers help rugby league in Albania

image copyrightKR Tirana
image captionAdam Vernon said the Tirana team had "embraced rugby league and the people involved"

A fledgling Albanian rugby league club has linked up with one of the oldest clubs in Britain, Hull Dockers.

KR Tirana has made the unusual partnership to develop domestic rugby league in the Balkan country.

Adam Vernon, from Hull, who now plays for KR Tirana, said he was part of "Hullbania", a group of exiles helping to develop the game.

Mr Vernon said it would be "exciting to see the project through when Covid allows".

Craig Cook, head coach at Hull Dockers, said: "We are a good old traditional club and the new move is 'win-win'.

"Although it's early days, the goal is to get Albanian players coming over here and it opens the possibility of a trip to Albania for some of our players.

"People will be surprised at the quality of Albanian players", he added.

Dockers was formed in 1880 and the amateur club plays in the National Conference League.

image copyrightAlbanian RL
image captionMr Vernon, seen playing for the Albanian national side, said the country was "a hidden gem"

Mr Vernon, an international school teacher in Albania for eight years, said he had had a lot of support from Hull residents to develop the game.

"Albania is a hidden gem with mountains and beaches that are not tourist-developed.

"It is a developing country and the infrastructure is not quite there, but people should come and see it."

Formerly Communist Albania had little contact with the outside world until its transition to democracy after 1990.

Mr Cook said the Tirana team originally played rugby union, then tried rugby league and "they fell in love with it".

The team has played for several years and is set to join the Greek league.

Peter Grayburn, the Albanian national side coach, is also from Hull and is now searching for players with Albanian heritage who want to join in.

Hull Dockers also called for Albanians in the UK to get in touch: "We would love you to come and watch".

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