ROLL ON RLWC 2013
AFTER a few false starts and near misses, former Knights back-rower Clint Newton is ready to don the stars and stripes and represent the United States at the 2013 rugby league World Cup. The Tomahawks qualified for their first World Cup when they thrashed Jamaica 40-4 in the Atlantic zone final in Philadelphia last week. The Americans will join Wales, who are competing in the Four Nations with Australia, New Zealand and England, and Cook Islands in Group D of the 2013 World Cup in England and Wales.
After four seasons and 100 games for English Super League club Hull Kingston Rovers, 30-year-old Newton has returned to Australia to finish his career in the NRL and has signed a two-year deal with Penrith. He is recovering from shoulder surgery and will be on restricted duties when the Panthers kick off pre-season training this month. Newton was born in the US – in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to be precise – where his father, Jack, was based while playing the professional golf circuit. Injuries and suspension have prevented him playing for the Tomahawks in the past but he said he had kept in contact with American National Rugby League president David Niu, the former St George five-eighth, and will join their World Cup campaign if called on.
‘‘If that opportunity comes along and they want me to play, I’d certainly be very interested,’’ said Newton, who represented Country Origin in 2007 and the Prime Minister’s XIII in 2005. ‘‘Unfortunately in the last couple of years, I’ve had injuries at the back end of those seasons which haven’t allowed me to play in their qualifiers. ‘‘This one in particular was very attractive to go over and play with them, but with my shoulder needing surgery, I had to think of Penrith first. ‘‘But in two years, if my form’s good enough, hopefully I can squeeze into the side somewhere.’’
Aged 19, and a year before he had made his NRL debut for the Knights, Newton was first approached to represent the US in qualifiers for the 2000 World Cup, but he was selected for the Junior Kangaroos that year and that took precedence. He was named in a 25-man squad for an international against Australia at Philadelphia in November 2004 but missed the Tomahawks’ 36-24 loss due to suspension.
‘‘It’s tremendous for rugby league in America, especially for David Niu, who has worked tirelessly since I nearly played for them back in 2000,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s been working hard for 11 years trying to get them to qualify for the World Cup, and now he has, so I couldn’t be happier for him. ‘‘Hopefully it will mean some publicity and a bit of success for the game in America, and that would be great.’’
A veteran of 215 senior games for the Knights, Storm and Hull KR, including Melbourne’s grand final win in 2007, Newton wants to provide leadership for the rebuilding Panthers, but stressed he was not trying to replace revered forwards Petero Civoniceva and Trent Waterhouse. Civoniceva has returned to Brisbane to end his career with the Broncos and Waterhouse has joined English Super League club Warrington.
‘‘Petero and Trent are two big personalities and have been fantastic players in that side – for a long time in Trent’s case,’’ he said. ‘‘But there is no way that I’m trying to fill their shoes, because they’re both internationals and Origin players and have done way more than I have in the game. ‘‘All I’m doing is going there and looking to bring the club, the team and the community what I’ve got to offer. There’s no way I’d be disrespectful and say I’m going to fill their shoes.’’