The AMNRL is embarking on a new pathway to further develop and grow the game in America and among the league’s initiatives is the appointment of a football development manager.
That job has gone to Australian based Steve Johnson, who hasn’t wasted any time by immediately brokering a deal whereby two players from the USA Tomahawks elite player pool will be going down under to hook up with the Ipswich Jets.
Johnson is chairman of the Ipswich club that competes in the Queensland Cup competition, as well as being part of a consortium pitching for an expansion team in the NRL, and he arranged for Jayson Rego and Josh Rice to join the Jets.
He says there are many reasons why he agreed to take on the role of AMNRL football development manager.
“I am excited about the reciprocal opportunities that exist for the game of rugby league and the USA,” Johnson tells WeAreRugby.
“I have worked for years in rugby league focusing on developing a culture where the person is as important as the player so that development is not just about playing but welfare education and vocation.
“The game in Australia has taken giant leaps recently in this regard but it is difficult to change 100 years of ingrained thinking, so the chance to be involved in what really is a Greenfield startup of the game in a country with the resources of the USA is compelling.”
Johnson plans to continue in the role for as long as the AMNRL feels that he’s the best person for the job and then he hopes to take on a different role with the league. In the meantime though, he knows he has his work cut out for him.
“My main task will be to identify (and hopefully secure) players eligible to play for the USA particularly in the 2013 World Cup,” says Johnson.
“I will also work with the executive and the coaching staff in finding opportunities for USA based players to as we say "learn grow and show" in established overseas competitions so that they may bring that knowledge back into the AMNRL and help AMNRL clubs recruit overseas players so that the USA based players may learn from them.”
To that end, Johnson adds that he has certain goals in mind.
“The immediate goal is to help put together a squad that will be competitive at the 2013 World Cup so that the great game of rugby league is showcased in the USA,” he says.
“The long term goal is help David Niu [AMNRL president] and his team not just develop and establish the game in the USA but make the USA Tomahawks the dominant national team in rugby league!!”