The American National Rugby League has named an expanded 2012 Elite Player Pool and it is the most extensive to date.
In total, 95 players have been drafted into the pool and encouragingly most of them are from the AMNRL’s domestic conferences. Players may be added to the squad as the coaching staff develop and evaluate talent leading to the 2013 season and RLWC.
As to be expected, the Atlantic Conference provides the bulk of the squad with 55, while the overseas based contingent is the next biggest contributor with 21. The Pacific Conference, now in its second season, serves up nine players from Hawaii and American Samoa and the remainder of the players come from the newly established Midwest, Southwest and West Conferences.
The AMNRL’s repeat champion New York Knights and 2012 semifinalists Pennsylvania Bulls have the highest representation from any club within the pool at 15 players each, while repeat Grand Finalists Connecticut Wildcats check in with 11.
The big names in the pool that will be recognized globally include NRL players Clint Newton (Penrith) and Joseph Paulo (Parramatta), along with Ryan McGoldrick, who plays for Hull FC in the English Super League.
The extensive size of the Elite Player Pool is in keeping with the AMNRL’s stated goal of casting as far and as wide as possible for potential talent for the USA Tomahawks coaching staff.
Head coach Matt Elliott, assistant coach Marcus Vassilakopoulos and football development manager Steve Johnson are tasked with identifying America’s best international caliber players and then preparing them as a squad for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
“I think the next process for us to enter into is to look at the dynamics of the squad,” Coach Elliott told WeAreRugby. “I think it’s vital to support the local element from the US to make sure there’s the right balance in the squad. This is so important.
“I think what’s going on down South and what’s going on in Hawaii is good and needs to be part of the selection process.
“Ultimately, it’s essential to get representation from each of the regions. This is only a personal opinion, but players coming out of the AMNRL has to be a priority.
“It would be completely absurd, in my opinion, if we stacked the squad with players from Australia, New Zealand and Britain because it completely negates the work that’s been done.
“There are some guys in the overseas contingent, like Joe [Paulo], that are in the must-have category because of their skills and experience and then we can start to look at who’s got the versatility and ability that we want to round out the squad.
“The front end of the process is that we need to make sure that the players out of the AMNRL are the best we can get. I think Marcus has done a remarkable job and I think we’ve got the expertise to identify the best domestic players.”
The USA’s next challenge is the Colonial Cup series with archrivals Canada. That two-game set takes place in September.
AMNRL ELITE PLAYER POOL
Fitzjames Adams (Knights), Joe Argueta (Knights), Luke Barron (Wildcats), Gareth Baxendale (Knights), Mike Brazill (Bulls), Kenny Britt (Bulls), James Carder (Knights), Mike Cartwright (Knights), Luke Collins (Bulls), Bryan Confer (Bulls), CJ Cortalano (Knights), Curtis Cunz (Wildcats), Akarika Dawn (Bulls), Phil Dorn (Eagles), John Dykeman (Knights), Ian Elliott (Knights), Todd Fisher (Knights), Ed Fua (Eagles), Gareth Gibbs (Wildcats), Phil Giuliano (Raiders), John Grace (Bulls), Wes Haughton (Bulls), Ben Hopson (Bulls), Luke Hume (Knights), Dan Johnson (Sharks), Pete Jordan (Knights), Andy Kneisly (Bulls), Cory Mayo (Bulls), Mike Murphy (Knights), Damien O'Malveney (Bulls), Zac Padgett (Sharks), Rob Ploth (Raiders), Apple Pope (Bulls), Matt Reilly (Raiders), Justin Ripley (Knights), Charlie Rizzo (Wildcats), Mike Romero (Sharks), Gio Roses (Wildcats), Pete Roses (Wildcats), Ben Sadgrove (Knights), Mike Schacter (Wildcats), Dennis Schmieler (Wildcats), Christian Seaman (Eagles), Phil Shipos (Sharks), Ryan Sodano (Sharks), Sean Taylor (Knights), Steve Thompson (Sharks), Salesi Tongamoa (Wildcats), Louis Tulio (Bulls), Dusten Umeda (Wildcats), Alejandro Valentin (Bulls), Freddy Vero (Raiders), Matt Walsh (Wildcats), Adam Wendland (Raiders), Kevin Wiggins (Bulls)
Conor Hadley (Storm), Eric Hunt (Storm), Kevin Hunt (Storm)
Tala Esera (Hawaii), Henry Leatio'o (American Samoa), Kelly McGill (Hawaii), Keiki Misipeka (American Samoa), Vai Natoa (Hawaii), Leonard Peters (Hawaii), Anthony Sunia (Hawaii), Loto Tagaloa (Hawaii), Mo Uitalia (Hawaii)
Brian Jensen (Utah), Josh Latu (Utah), Kali Tavake (Utah), Chance Williams (Utah)
Zane Hirtzel (California), Ika Ofa (California), Jack Tracy (California)
Cory Blair (Tweed Heads), Mark Cantoni (Pia), Tyrone Coppedge (Sunshine Coast), Kristian Freed (Sunshine Coast), Mike Filimona (Penrith), Michael Garvey (Ipswich), Roman Hifo (Auckland Vulcans), Danny Howard (Wentworthville), Steven Howard (Tuggeranong), Corey Makelim (Parramatta), David Marando (Belrose), Ryan McGoldrick (Hull FC), David Myles (Unattached), Clint Newton (Penrith), Mark Offerdahl (Carcassonne), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta), Kevin Pease (Burleigh), Matt Petersen (Gympie), Jayson Rego (Ipswich), Josh Rice (Ipswich), Tui Samoa (Redcliffe), Mitchell Stevens (Wynnum-Manly), Jared Stewart (Leeds)