The AMNRL has announced a number of key appointments in recent weeks and you can’t help but notice the international influence of the personnel being recruited.
Of those appointments made, the majority have been Australians who have significant experience in coaching, administration, sports development, and media communications.
Acquiring international assistance in top level sport can sometimes be a contentious topic of debate. For example, Wayne Bennett was widely criticized when he accepted the role of Assistant Coach for New Zealand in 2008. Not surprisingly, the Kiwis went on to win the Rugby League World Cup that same year.
Some would argue that recruiting international assistance to develop Rugby League in America, doesn’t fit the typical organizational philosophy witnessed in other American sports. A country whose patriotism extends to the sporting arena, having foreign representation in charge of the development of Rugby League may appear to be one of the sports downfalls.
The counterargument of course is that if you want the sport to develop and grow into the mainstream American sporting community, you have to recruit experienced personnel who have the skills and expertise to advance the sport to the next level.
A look at some of the international recruits holding key positions, it is clear the AMNRL has the goal of maximizing the potential of Rugby League and boosting it to the highest level possible. Below you will find a list of professionals, mostly Australians, who are doing their part to bring the great game of Rugby League to the American people.
Matthew Elliott – It may have been by chance that Matthew Elliott was appointed head coach of the Tomahawks, but having an experienced NRL coach at the helm is a step in the right direction as the USA looks to instill credibility to their program. Elliott has a wealth of Rugby League experience both as a player and coach, previously filling roles at the St George Dragons, Canberra Raiders, and Penrith Panthers. Elliott will serve as an Assistant Coach for the Sydney City Roosters in 2012 and is one of- if not the most significant key appointment the AMNRL has made. It was under Elliott’s leadership that the Tomahawks successfully qualified for the 2013 World Cup.
Steven Johnson – Appointed to the position of Football Development Manager, Steven Johnson has already made his mark on the development of Rugby League in America. It was because of his position as Chairman of the Ipswich Jets in Queensland; Johnson was able to secure an opportunity for Hawaiian-based players Jayson Rego and Josh Rice to develop their skills in a stronger competition. Apart from serving in his role at the Jets, Johnson is also heading up the bid for the Western Corridor NRL team.
Lee Addison – Having an experienced Coaching Director who has worked with NRL clubs in the development of junior players can only be beneficial to the AMNRL. Originally from England, Addison has been developing his skills with top league programs in Australia since 2007. His knowledge and experience will add another dimension to the organization, as consistency and continuity in coaching is implemented and developed.
Damian Flint - A former Queensland Cup representative with the Logan City Scorpions and Ipswich Jets, Flint has been appointed to the position of Collegiate Development Manager. As the collegiate game is recognized as a potential breeding ground for emerging Tomahawks, Flint will look to establish a clear pathway to the elite level. Currently serving as the Club Sports and Intramurals Coordinator at The College at Brockport, Flint is in touch with issues currently impacting colleges across the nation, making him the ideal person to lead the collegiate initiative.
Adam Nable – Having already organized a French tour for the Tomahawks in 2012, Nable has been quick to make his mark as the inaugural International Representative. His playing career involved stints in Australia, England, and France including 64 professional matches in the NRL. Nable also spent time with the New York Knights which lead him to take on this new role. Recognizing the potential of Rugby League to develop in the USA, Nable will use his Australian contacts to promote the development of Rugby League in America to key executives abroad.
Rob Irwin – Taking on a number of roles, Irwin is the Director of Match Officials, Judiciary Committee, and Liaison to ARL referees. Ensuring quality officiating is a priority of the AMNRL, Irwin has already used his Australian connections to improve the standard of refereeing in America. Securing NRL referee Chris Sutton for last year’s AMNRL Grand Final is just one example of an Australian using his contacts to improve the standard of play in the USA. Irwin will look to continue this trend by developing training courses for referees in America based on the resources provided in Australia.
Brian Lowe – An experienced Media and Communications Director, Lowe is no stranger to the marketing and promotion of sport in America. Having served as co-owner of American Rugby News from 2005-2010, Lowe has been an instrumental figure in the coverage of both League and Union across the country. Recognizing the enormous potential of Rugby League in America, Lowe accepted the position of Content Manager for WeareRugby in October, 2010. In this position Lowe will look to cover the important issues, bringing Rugby League to the American people.
Brett Frawley – Covering the AMNRL matches in 2011, Frawley is excited about the development of Rugby League in America. As he told WeAreRugby, “I believe rugby league is ideal as a product, open play, athleticism across the park and way easier to understand, which means easier to fall in love with.” Frawley has been working with Lowe, covering matches for both the AMNRL and WeAreRugby websites. As the Tomahawks qualified for their first ever Rugby League World Cup, Frawley has no doubts what the future of the game is contingent upon. “The greatest challenge in developing the sport here in America is to now develop the bottom-up approach. A wide-reaching, nourishing, grassroots program is the key to success.”
The influence of key personnel with foreign backgrounds now embedded in American communities across the country is evident at the local regional level with Guilliame Cieutat originally from France at the New York Knights having won two national championships, Tomahawks assistant coach Marcus Vassilakopoulos; a Challenge Cup winner at Leeds Rhinos at the Aston Bulls, Mike Featherstone hailing from St.Helens in the UK is the driving force behind the Midwest Rugby League, along with Col Manners and George Tupou both originally from Sydney now working hard to grow rugby league in southern California and Utah. The influence of this experienced group is making an impact on the growth of the sport nationally.
The goal of the AMNRL is to develop, promote, and expand the sport of Rugby League in America. By recruiting top level coaches, administrators, players, and media personnel, the organization is working towards accomplishing that goal.
Tasked with creating a team to lead the AMNRL into this new, exciting, era, is their CEO and fellow Australian David Niu. A former first grade player with the St George Dragons, Niu knows what it takes to compete at a high level. With a vision of catapulting the Tomahawks to become a force among Rugby League’s elite, it only makes sense that an international influence is guiding that mission.