After weeks of training in Queensland’s unseasonably steamy summer, combined with adjusting to a new culture and the anticipation of playing in Australia, three young Americans are about to get their first taste of rugby league down under.
Michael Garvey (Aston Bulls), Josh Rice and Jayson Rego (Hawaii Islanders) will suit up Friday night for their adopted club the Ipswich Jets.
Ipswich, which competes in the Queensland Cup, is hosting NRL club Penrith in a preseason friendly. The Queensland Cup is a feeder system to the NRL.
The trio, all of whom debuted for the USA Tomahawks in their rookie year in 2011, have been placed with the Jets for the 2012 season as part of the American National Rugby League’s strategy to expose up and coming US players to a higher level of competition.
Their placement was organized by AMNRL Football Development Manager Steve Johnson, who is also the Jets’ chairman.
Garvey, Rice and Rego will see their initial action in a scrimmage with the club’s lower grade side in a curtain raiser to the main game. Garvey will be on the wing, Rice in the second row and Rego at fullback/wing.
They have been practicing with the Jets' squad three times a week since arriving in Australia last month, as well as layering in individual training routines in an effort to get themselves match ready.
“Very excited for it,” Rego told WeAreRugby. “Excited to play and go out there and give it all we’ve got. That’s all you can do is just do the best you can.”
Forget the fact that it’s a lower grade game; the Tomahawk trio is keyed up for it because it’ll be the first genuine chance to impress the Jets’ coaching staff.
“We’re not going to take it easy,” said Garvey. “There’s some skilled players and they’ve got some size so we’re just going to play it like it’s any other game.”
As for the Jets’ training regimen, it’s not dissimilar to what the players are used to back home.
“They do weights, they do running, sprints, skill work and drills, but I think the main difference is the interval drills. There’s a lot more running and less rest,” added Rice. “It’s about improving your endurance and fitness.”
All three players have been named in the AMNRL’s 2012 Elite Player Pool and all are on a mission to show their inclusion is well deserved.
The Jets officially launched their 2012 season with a Sportsman's Dinner Thursday night at which former New South Wales State of Origin coach and newly appointed Penrith General Manager Phil Gould was the guest speaker.
In other Tomahawks news, prop Mark Offerdahl continues to recover from shoulder surgery in France.
He picked up a knock during the USA’s successful run through the Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers last fall and has been on the sidelines for his French club Carcassonne.
“Just saw the surgeon and he said to be safe it'll be another five months until I’m good to go 100%, which is good so I’ll be fresh for the American tour,” said Offerdahl.
The USA is tentatively scheduled to tour France in October.