Marcus Vassilakopoulos is an ex-England schoolboy international who went on to play more than 100 games of professional rugby league for Leeds, Sheffield and Hunslet, including a Challenge Cup Final and championship games with Leeds, plus the World Club Challenge with Sheffield. He also won a First Division championship with Hunslet. Marcus grandfather was born in Wisconsin which made him eligible to represent the USA Tomahawks. Since relocating to the US he has settled in the Philadelphia suburb of Aston and teaches at the Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania. He wife Deb is an American and they have two young daughters, Madison and London with a third child on the way. He has played 31 internationals for the USA Tomahawks, the most recent being the 2010 Colonial Cup match against Canada.
For Vassy's first interview he has contacted a great friend and former teammate, current England Captain and Warrington Wolves front-rower Adrian Morley whom he played with at Leeds where they struck up a great friendship that has spanned the last few decades. Morley is 100% behind the AMNRL's efforts in the USA and believes this great game can succeed in America.
MV - Adrian, great to speak to you and thanks for sparing me a few minutes for my first interview.
AM - No problem Vassy me old mate, anytime, it's a pleasure to talk to you.
MV - You had another great season last year with the Wolves then a disappointing end to the year with the injury to your arm in the lead up to the Four Nations. How is the injury now?
AM -The arm is fine now. I had the surgery after flying home from New Zealand and everything went well. The strength and size are back to normal, I've played two warm-up games so far without any problems.
MV - How has the preparation for the 2011 season been going so far with the Wolves?
AM - Very good, we had a warm weather training camp in Tenerife for a week last month. A lot of the younger players came with us too which was great experience for them. We've had two warm-up games now and the Super League starts next weekend. We are ready and raring to go!
MV - Which player at the Wolves should fans look out for this year and which new signing do you think will have the biggest impact for the club?
AM - I think the fans should look out for Chris Bridge, he's been gradually improving year on year but injuries have always held him back. I feel that this year will be a big year for Bridgey. Brett Hodgson has been one of, if not the best, fullbacks in Super League for the last two years and I can see him carrying that on this year with the Wolves.
MV - There are a lot of good teams out there in Super League, who do you think will pose the biggest threat to the Wolves this year?
AM - Wigan are the team to beat, they were the most consistent team last year and they've strengthened very well and have mostly the team they had last season, so they'll definitely be up there again this year.
MV - What player/players should fans look out for this year in Super League?
AM - Tom Briscoe from Hull made the England squad last year but is very young and is only going to get better. The Monaghan brothers for Warrington will be exciting, it will be good to see how they play together.
MV - Are you making yourself eligible for national team selection this year?
AM - Definitely! I think it's your duty if you're playing well enough and the coach wants you, to make yourself available.
MV - What is your best memory as a rugby league player so far in your illustrious career?
AM - I've been lucky enough to win quite a bit in my career, but my highlight was and is every time I pull on an international jersey. There is no buzz like representing your country.
MV - Who is the toughest player you have faced, other than me?!
AM - The raging bull (Gordon Tallis) is up there along with Rueben Wiki.
MV - Tell us a little about your trips to the USA with England in 2000 and 2004, when you ran the water for the Tomahawks against Australia?
AM - In 2000 I didn't actually play in the game due to a sternum injury but I remember being blown away by the training facilities and tourist attractions over there. In 2004 I was on holiday at the end of the season and watched the games in Philadelphia. The warm-up game involved the Coogee Dolphins, who I am affiliated with in Sydney, and in the main game my old teammate Vassy turned out for the Tomahawks! I really enjoyed the night and the USA put up a great show against the world champs.
MV - And finally, can you say a few words about the development of rugby league in the USA and the job David Niu and the AMNRL has done over the last 15 years?
AM - David Niu and the gang have done a great job in developing the sport over there. I firmly believe that rugby league can thrive in the USA, it's a very physical and tough game and something the American people can relate to. I'm sure given the opportunity to see more contests, more people will fall in love with the game.
MV - Thanks Adrian for your time.