By Julian Clarkstone
There is less than one month to go until the Firehouse Subs Rugby League World Cup Americas Qualifiers kicks off in Jacksonville. Canada, Jamaica and the USARL Hawks will face off for the right to play in the 2017 World Cup, which will be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
The Hawks will now be under the tutelage of Leeds Rhinos’ head coach, Brian McDermott, who has just won the 2015 Super League and Challenge Cup titles with the Rhinos. His experience will be invaluable to the team, who are looking to qualify for their second straight Rugby League World Cup.
“There’s been a very thorough selection process and I can’t wait to get started with the staff and players. They’re a committed bunch of men and I’m really looking forward to working with everyone,” McDermott said.
Only one team from the Americas division will qualify for World Cup, increasing the importance of each match in December. The USARL Hawks have released their train-on squad of 20 players to take part in the three nation tournament and have made some changes from their Colonial Cup defeat to Canada in October.
The Philadelphia Fight are the most heavily represented, with five players named in the Hawks squad. The Fight representatives consist of Casey Clark, Rich Henson, Andrew Kneisly, Roman Lowery and Mike Timpano.
Whilst the Colonial Cup squad was entirely made up of USARL players, the 22-man train-on squad includes heritage players competing in Australia and England. Sam Carson (Norths Devils), Danny and Steve Howard (Wentworthville Magpies), Tui Samoa (Young Cherrypickers), Luke Barron, Kristian Freed (Mitchelton Panthers) and Mark Offerdahl (London Broncos) will join the Hawks. Luke Barron recently returned to the USA after spending a season with Mitchelton Panthers, winning the premiership in 2015.
The Howard brothers, Freed, Samoa and Offerdahl competed in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup where the team reached the quarter finals.
Several other players have worked their way into the squad after impressive performances in the Colonial Cup matches. Ryan Burroughs (Northern Virginia Eagles) was a standout in game two, scoring 2 tries and was also the leading try scorer in the USARL Competition in 2015. Kevin Wiggins (Delaware Black Foxes) was just as strong in game one, recognised as the Hawks best from the match.
Several USARL players debuted for the Hawks against Canada in the Colonial Cup. This provided many players with the new experience of playing at an international level as well as opportunity to develop combinations with their new team mates, which is only going to benefit the team come next month. The squad will assemble in Jacksonville on December 1 before their first match against Jamaica on December 4.
USARL Hawks 22-man Train-on Squad:
CJ Cortalano – New York Knights
Jared Frymoyer – Philadelphia Fight