THE United States came back from 1-0 down in the Colonial Cup against Canada to wrap up the series 3-1 with a 30-22 win – but it was the start of another major controversy Stateside.
The Tomahawks side that was subsequently chosen for the World Cup included just five players who took part in the Colonial Cup, with captain Apple Pope and long-serving forward Curtis Cunz omitted.
That’s still more domestic players than the likes of Ireland and Tonga (who threatened legal action over the domestic player quota before the last World Cup) but it caused a storm in America.
Central to the criticism was that unlike Italy – who also upset local players by picking ‘foreigners’ – the US was unable to source NRL first graders aside from Clint Newton, Junior and Joseph Paulo.
So the players come instead from clubs like Tuggeranong Vikings, Mangere East Hawks and Belrose.
Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland thought strongly enough about it to record a video, decrying the absence of long-serving internationals.
American rugby league founder David Niu responded on Twitter by saying Pope’s own club coach, had recommended he not be picked. Far & Wide was not able to independently verify this.
The issue with many denizens of American Rugby League – admittedly, mainly those from the breakaway USARL – was that four of the domestic players chosen had played only eight games in the country between them.
Former Tomahawk Kenny Britt said on Facebook that the AMNRL used national selection to ensure their loyalty to the establishment league, only to “turn their back on them” at the 11th hour.
While we see Howland’s point and admire his passion, picking players for the World Cup because sponsors and fans want them in is hard to justify.
Far & Wide reckons that sometimes it’s not who you leave out of these teams but who you replace them with. And because some of the overseas based Tomahawks are far from household names, there will be intense pressure on them to perform.
JUST running an eye over all the World Cup squads, it appears Wales is the only one without at least one NRL player.
But while they’ll be underdogs against Italy, they probably won’t be the worst-performed side in the tournament.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK