Special to RUGBYMag.com by Brian Lowe.
The United States is ready to write a new chapter in its Rugby League history with the national team to make its Rugby League World Cup debut this month in the UK.
The USA Tomahawks will be playing in their first ever RLWC and they plan to make the world sit up and take notice.
The 24-man squad contains a mix of players with previous international experience with the Tomahawks and others who’ve been plying their trade at the highest levels in both the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia and European Super League (SLE)
Nine players on the roster were born in the US, many of them cut their teeth playing in the USA’s domestic competitions, while some others on the squad have come to the States to play during our summer season.
The captain is 25-year old Joseph Paulo of the Parramatta Eels. Other notable names on the team include NRL veteran Clint Newton and Super League journeyman Ryan McGoldrick and together they are the USA’s triple threat.
Newton, son of Australian golfing great Jack, was born in South Carolina while his father was competing in the 1981 US Open. This is his first tour with the Tomahawks.
Players who’ve previously worn the Red, White and Blue include Paulo, McGoldrick, Mark Offerdahl, Mark Cantoni, Danny Howard, Michael Garvey, Matt Petersen, Taylor Welch and Craig Priestly. McGoldrick and Petersen are the lone survivors of the Tomahawks’ unsuccessful RLWC Qualifying series in 2007 when they fell to Samoa at the final hurdle.
“The USA has picked a great balance for the future,” said Tomahawks Team Manager Steve Johnson. “With nine American-born players at the RLWC, not only will it be a great thing for the domestic game, but one of the highest of the competing nations other than Australia and the ‘home’ nations.”
Other than by birth, under the Rugby League International Federation’s ‘heritage’ rule, a player is also eligible for a country based on where a parent or grandparent was born, and in the USA’s case, many on the squad qualify that way.
The US isn’t alone in that regard, however, as all developing nations at RLWC2013 have picked heritage players in order to be as competitive as possible.
The Tomahawks will play in Group D alongside co-hosts Wales and the Cook Islands. Their final preliminary game will be a Group C/D crossover match against Scotland.
It’ll be a tough ask for #12 Tomahawks to go through to the playoff rounds as two of their opponents are ranked higher on the RLIF world rankings. Wales is at #5 and Scotland is ranked #11. The Cook Islands check in at #18.
The US is on a roll though, coming off a victory in the annual Colonial Cup series against Canada that wrapped up in September. The series, which is normally a two-match set based on an aggregate points system, was extended to four games this year to give the Tomahawks some additional competition in the lead-up to RLWC2013.
The USA dropped the opening game and then rattled off three straight wins to clinch the series. Three of the four matches were played in Toronto, the other was held at AA Garthwaite Stadium in Conshohocken, PA.
The Tomahawks will have a RLWC2013 warm-up match against France in Toulouse this Friday night in what will be the first official Rugby League international between the two countries.
The USA is coached by Terry Matterson, a former NRL player who has coached Castleford in the SLE and is the current assistant coach with the North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL.
USA TOMAHAWKS SQUAD:
Mark Cantoni (Dalby, Aus), Bureta Faraimo (Mackay Cutters, Aus), Gabriel Farley (Southampton Dragons, AMNRL), Kristian Freed (Connecticut Wildcats, AMNRL), Michael Garvey (Ipswich Jets, Aus), Roman Hifo (East Hawks, NZ), Danny Howard (Wentworthville, Aus), Stephen Howard (Tuggeranong Vikings, Aus), Judah Lavulo (Cabramatta, Aus), Joel Luani (Wests Tigers, NRL), David Marando (Belrose, Aus), Ryan McGoldrick (Salford City Reds, SLE), Clint Newton (Penrith, NRL), Mark Offerdahl (Connecticut Wildcats, AMNRL), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta, NRL), Junior Paulo (Parramatta, NRL), Eddy Pettybourne (Wigan Warriors, SLE), Craig Priestly (Southampton Dragons, AMNRL), Matt Petersen (Cudgen Hornets, Aus), Tui Samoa (Redcliffe, Aus), Matt Shipway (Newcastle, Aus), Les Soloai (Featherstone Rovers, UK), Lelauloto Tagaloa (Hawaii Chiefs, AMNRL), Taylor Welch (Connecticut Wildcats, AMNRL)
USA RLWC2013 Schedule:
Cook Islands (Bristol, October 30)
Wales (Wrexham, November 3)
Scotland (Salford City, November 7)
For more information about the Rugby League World Cup please visit www.rlwc2013.com