From the suburbs of western Brisbane to inclusion on the USA Tomahawks roster is the hope of one young player currently plying his trade in the American National Rugby League. Leslie Alovili, a product of the Ipswich Jets RLFC, is striving for selection in the Tomahawks elite player pool ahead of a busy international schedule. The US will play Canada twice this summer, before hosting South Africa and Jamaica in the Rugby League World Cup Atlantic Zone qualifying series in October. The prize at the end, should the Tomahawks successfully navigate the RLWCQ, is America’s first ever appearance at the Rugby League World Cup and Alovili would like nothing better than to be part of the USA's drive to the prize.
Alovili, who turns 20 in September, is eligible for the USA by virtue of being born in Hawaii. He moved to Australia with his family at an early age and came up through the Jets’ age grade programs. Before coming to the States this past spring, he had been playing in the Jets’ Colts team after putting in a preseason with the club’s Queensland Cup side. “I heard about rugby league in the USA from my father Ronnie,” Alovili tells WeAreRugby. “I just wanted a change and wanted to promote the game here in the USA.”
The young man made the move across the Pacific to play in the AMNRL with the Northern Raiders club in New York and to enhance his chances of US national team selection. “I definitely would love to make the Tomahawks squad and hopefully have a chance to play in the World Cup if I could as I am going to live in the USA and try to go to school and work,” he says. “I’ve been trying to play good footy over here and I believe I am doing pretty good at it.”
Certainly, if his regular season form with the Raiders is any indicator it will come as no surprise if he catches the eye of the Tomahawks coaching staff. Alovili is among the leading try-scorers in the AMNRL’s Atlantic Conference. The regular season has come to an end with the Raiders finishing fourth in the standings, meaning they have qualified for the AMNRL postseason for the first time in a long time. And just on that, he says the standard of the game stateside isn’t too shabby.
“The AMNRL compared to Qld Cup is different as the Qld Cup has ex-NRL players also training and games are very physical and demanding,” continues Alovili. “The AMNRL will be at the same level in a few more years. Where they are now is a good stepping stone towards it.”
Regardless of whether or not he’s picked in the Tomahawks’ player pool this season, Alovili sees a future for himself in the United States. “My plan for the next year or so is to go to college and play rugby and work,” he concludes.