The USA Tomahawks commence their preparation for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup next month with the annual Donnybrook Cup clash against Ireland in Philadelphia.
The match is the first of many for the US, as the build up to London kicks off. For one player, however, the quest for selection in the World Cup squad is already well and truly underway!
Mark Cantoni - a member of the Tomahawks team that defeated Jamaica to qualify for the World Cup - has been playing for the Pia Donkeys in the French Elite 1 competition. Cantoni scored a try in the USA’s 40-4 win and now eyes the World Cup as the catalyst to extend his career.
While many players took a well deserved break after the historic qualifiers, Cantoni, on the other hand, headed to France and got straight back to work. As he told WeAreRugby, “We are in the middle of our season here so it was straight back into games after the qualifiers.”
When asked about the impact reaching the Cup has had on his career, Cantoni was optimistic about his playing future. “I am at the back end of my career and as a result of the qualifications; I think I might go around one more season than I would have.”
The opportunity to be a part of the USA’s inaugural campaign is a motivating factor for the experienced footballer, whose playing career includes stints with the East Tigers and Northern Pride in the Queensland Cup of Australia. “It is definitely a big occasion and something I would like to be part of, if selected.”
Qualifying for selection through the Grandparent rule, Cantoni has been keeping a close eye on the developments the AMNRL has made of late. “I think if they could somehow introduce rugby league to kids and boost junior development, it would really help the game over there.”
Cantoni identifies exposure of the game as the best way to reach potential collegiate players. “There would be so many players who have played college American football or Rugby Union who may not have ever seen the game. If they were only exposed to it, I’m sure they would be attracted to the game.”
What will it take for the Tomahawks to have a successful Cup campaign? Cantoni believes quality matches against quality teams will play a big role.
“I think the more the whole squad played together against quality opposition, it would only enhance our chances at the World Cup and develop some combinations in doing so.”
For the time being, however, his focus is on finishing off the French season with a premiership.
“Hopefully our side can make the Grand Final over here, but there are several teams right up there.”