REGO & RICE FORM US PACKAGE
For the Ipswich Jets' two newest recruits, their own expectations may seriously exceed the club's.
As they experienced their first Christmas in Australia, Jayson Rego and Joshua Rice revealed their desire to play at the highest level.
The two former US football players from Hawaii were first introduced to rugby league by a friend.
When a four-team rugby league competition kicked off in Hawaii, they both joined and did well enough to get invited by US and former Penrith Panthers coach Matthew Elliot to try out for the national team.
Elliot is a good friend of Jets chairman Steve Johnson who is also the US rugby league development manager.
It was in that capacity that he lured Rego and Rice, both on the fringes of the national team, to the Jets for a year.
Johnson thinks the two may push for a spot in the Jets' Queensland Cup team towards the end of the 2012 season if they progress well.
Rego was previously a running back for the University of Hawaii, which competed in the top division of US college football.
"I trialled for the pro-league and did okay," he said.
"But I ended up getting hurt, fell into rugby league and fell in love with it."
It was a similar story for his long-time friend Rice.
"Me and Josh go way back," the 24-year-old Rego said.
"We've known each other since the first days at university.
"We were recruited to play gridiron together and have been good friends ever since."
Now both share a similar goal in rugby league - to make it as far as possible, starting with the Jets in 2012.
"We did a lot of conditioning and stuff so I learned a lot about that," Rego said of his brief time with the Jets so far.
"I've learned a lot so far.
"I'm hoping to learn enough to make it in the top grade.
"It will take a lot of hard work and perseverance.
"As long as I keep working, hopefully I'll get there."
Rice hopes to go further than just the Queensland Cup, with ambitions to one day play in the NRL.
"I definitely need to improve my instincts for the game," he said.
"Players here have been playing since they were four or five years old. I've been playing for a year."
Rego rates his running skills his greatest attribute and thinks Rice's defence is the strong point of his game.
"I'd say his hitting," Rego said of Rice.
"He's a great tackler."
Yet it is tackling the back-rower rates as the biggest adjustment he has had to make playing league.
"In American football, you've got all the pads and helmet on so you don't really have to think about where you put your head or body," Rice said. "In rugby, if you put your head in the wrong place, you get knocked out."
The fitness levels required for league are also a lot different to US football, with much greater aerobic stamina required.
"You need to be a lot fitter and in better running shape," Rice said.
Rego is confident his year spent with the Jets will put him in good stead to earn a place in the US World Cup squad.
"Definitely," he said.
"Because playing with the Jets, I learn a lot of things others might not. Also the competition here is so high.
"When you're amongst others at a high level, you bring yourself up to that level."