By Brian Lowe, AMNRL Media management

The American National Rugby League has cast its net far and wide in naming an expansive Train-On squad for the USA Tomahawks’ upcoming schedule of international matches.

The squad consists of 44 players from the AMNRL’s Atlantic Conference, 19 from the new Pacific Conference, four from the Midwest and Southeast expansion conferences and another 15 who are based overseas.

Eventually the squad, which includes a mix of players with dual code experience, will be trimmed to 20 for the Rugby League World Cup Qualifying series in October. Prior to that, 17-man squads will be named for the two Colonial Cup tests against Canada.

Among the rugby converts who have played for the US Eagles and national Sevens team are Tyrone Coppedge and Pila Taufa, while Ben Sadgrove and Keiki Misipeka have both played Super League in the USA with Old Blue New York and the Chicago Griffins respectively.


Josh Price during Practice

The Tomahawks coaching staff has also selected promising American Football crossover athletes Josh Rice and Jayson Rego, both formerly at the University of Hawaii, as well as Hawaiian-born and Australian raised Leslie Alovili, one of the leading try-scorers in the Atlantic Conference this season.

“The opportunity to meet with (head coach) Matt Elliott in Hawaii allowed us to design a plan for the Tomahawks program leading into the RLWCQ and beyond,” said US coach David Niu. “Our goal is to assemble the best players available for each international and prepare them remotely prior to team assembly.

“By selecting players from around the country as part of the train-on squad it gives the players a timeline to prepare, and the coaching staff a chance to interact directly with each player and introduce team systems and conditioning programs.”

The Train-On squad may be widened in the coming weeks so that the Tomahawks coaches can get a look at as many eligible players as possible to ensure the USA maximizes its chances of success at the RLWCQ. USA Tomahawks Train-On Squad:

Atlantic Conference

Fitzjames Adams (New York Knights), Leslie Alovili (Northern Raiders), Fred Backhaus (Bucks County Sharks), Gareth Baxendale (New York Knights), Mike Brazill (Aston Bulls), Ryan Coleman (Aston Bulls), Luke Collins (Aston Bulls), Bryan Confer (Aston Bulls), John Convery (Aston Bulls), CJ Cortalano (New York Knights), Curtis Cunz (Connecticut Wildcats), John Dykeman (New York Knights), Ian Elliott (New York Knights), Will Garcia (Connecticut Wildcats), Michael Garvey (Aston Bulls), John Grace (Aston Bulls), Andrew Kneisly (Aston Bulls), Vaisia Korisetta (Bucks County Sharks), Xavier Lonzinguez (New York Knights), Corey Mayo (Aston Bulls), Kirk Miller (New York Knights), Calder Orr (New York Knights), Zac Padgett (Bucks County Sharks), Mike Phillips (Connecticut Wildcats), Charlie Rizzo (Connecticut Wildcats), Matt Reilly (Northern Raiders), Paulo Reis (Northern Raiders), Justin Ripley (New York Knights), Ben Sadgrove (New York Knights), Mike Schacter (Connecticut Wildcats), Phil Schacter (Connecticut Wildcats), Phil Shipos (Bucks County Sharks), Nate Smith (Aston Bulls), Ryan Sodano (Bucks County Sharks), Dan Taylor (New York Knights), Sean Taylor (New York Knights), Mike Thompson (Connecticut Wildcats), Steve Thompson (Bucks County Sharks), Louis Tulio (Aston Bulls), Alejandro Valentin (Aston Bulls), Joel Venables (Northern Raiders), Fred Vero (Northern Raiders), Nick Vornley (Connecticut Wildcats), Justin Zadnik (Bucks County Sharks)

Pacific Conference

Andrew Malafu (Maui Voyagers), Vaka Manupuna (Maui Voyagers), Kelly McGill (Maui Voyagers), Manu Peni (Marist Marauders), Thomas Ray (Hawaii Islanders), Jayson Rego (Hawaii Islanders), Joshua Rice (Hawaii Islanders), Ikavalu Sake (Hawaii Islanders), Apelu So’oalu (Marist Marauders), Anthony Sunia (Marist Marauders), Tounga Talakai (Maui Voyagers), Pila Taufa (Maui Voyagers), Keone Tawata (Hawaii Islanders), Lance Tongakilo (Honolulu Titans), Mike Tuala (Maui Voyagers), Mosese Uitalia (Kalihi Raiders), Dusten Umeda (Honolulu Titans), Molo Vaka (Marist Marauders), Emagi Vaimasanuu (Marist Marauders)

Midwest Expansion Conference

James Anderson (Chicago Stockyarders), Dan Grace (Chicago Stockyarders)

Southeast Expansion Conference

Apple Pope (Jacksonville, FL), Salesi Tongamoa (Atlanta Legion RLFC)

Overseas Based Players

Mark Cantoni (Northern Pride – Qld), Tyrone Coppedge (Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles – Qld), Nathan DeBartolo (Sydney Bulls – NSW), Kristian Freed (Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles – Qld), Danny Howard (Wentworthville Magpies – NSW), Stephen Howard (Tuggeranong Vikings – Canberra), David Marando (Belrose Eagles – NSW), Ryan McGoldrick (Castleford Tigers – SLE), Keiki Misipeka (American Samoa), Kea Misipeka (American Samoa), David Myles (NQ Cowboys/NZ Warriors – NRL), Clint Newton (Hull Kingston Rovers – SLE), Mark Oferdahl (Easts Tigers – Qld), Matt Petersen (Parramatta Eels/Gold Coast Titans – NRL), Mitchell Stevens (Gateshead Thunder – Cooperative Championship 1 UK)

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  1. deluded pom? says:

    “Our goal is to assemble the best players available for each international and prepare them remotely prior to team assembly.”

    The Train-On squad may be widened in the coming weeks so that the Tomahawks coaches can get a look at as many eligible players as possible to ensure the USA maximizes its chances of success at the RLWCQ.

    With Niu’s pettiness sinking to ever lower depths the Yanks won’t be boarding a plane to the UK in 2013 and he’ll have to take a long hard look in the mirror the morning after the USA has failed to qualify.

    • druzik says:

      DP, realistically looking at that the 15 foreign players will be in the squad for sure and only 5 others will make up the numbers. This means out of the three nations the USA will probably have the strongest squad. The Jamaicans and South Africaners wont be able to muster the same kind of international players I suspect… USA and the Niu will probably make the world Cup, and in the world cup it will be a team completely stacked with internationals I will guess, just like all those nations will, and so this will mean that the local boys will be completely left out in the cold, in all the teams.

      Its a sad state of affairs … I am hearing some of the USARL teams will submit players names to the AMNRL for tomahawks selection anyway.

      But its funny, Apple Popes affiliation is “Jacksonville” a USARL team, and this could be them saying “Oh we did include the USARL”… I hope not as on the amnrl website Apple was listed to be playing for the “Vipers”.

      • RedVee says:

        I was just going to say that Apple Pope was the only USARL player I could find.


        Yet Matt Petersen, who I believe is retired from top level League is named.

        What am I missing here?

      • druzik says:

        I guess Apple is a free agent, he has played only 1 match this year … the Donnybrook Cup.

      • deluded pom? says:

        Don’t underestimate the players that Jamaica can rally round the cause dru.

      • druzik says:

        That is True, I really hope they can muster a good strong team of local and hermitage players. Last year in the Atlantic cup they had a good mix like that.

  2. KeighleyWeb says:

    Are they taking players from both AMRL and USARL then?

    • deluded pom? says:

      In a word, NO KW. Both comps was a misnomer as it means the AC and the PC from the AMNRL NOT the AMNRL and the USARL. Niu’s pride will ultimately be the downfall of the AMNRL.

      • druzik says:

        Well there are other “conferences” that they are from as well. The fact someone from Atlanta is in, when they have never played a game, and no one from Utah?

  3. tax_dodger says:

    What a joke. The irony here is that playing in the AMNRL is supposedly going to be your only chance of international selection, yet the majority of the squad are playing QLD/NSW cup. Hilarious. What’s the point of domestic players choosing the AMNRL over USARL, if they’re going to be ignored due to Aussie accents?

    • druzik says:

      That’s has been the whole debate over this, hasn’t it… and I see that no Utah players have been included… and from what I know the USA team was an incentive for them to switch. They have got none of the promised games that they were meant to have or anything.

  4. deluded pom? says:

    I think Niu and Elliott have named everyone eligible that does not play in the USARL. We all know that for the vast majority this is as close as they will come to a game at the 2013 WC qualifiers. Just what is the point of naming such a huge “train on squad”?

  5. Interested Observer says:

    DP, mate you have hit the nail on the head a few times in this thread. They have cast their net far and wide, over the whole AMNRL nearly. But to say it’s been done to select the best players is an absolute joke. Without USARL players being considered for selection, they have not cast their net for home grown talent at all.

    Apple is a free agent and it’s a farce that they have even given a title to the South East expansion conference as there is no bloody conference. Apple has had to sit out an entire domestic season to keep Niuy and others happy. What a joke that the encumbent USA Captain had to do that. I know the AMNRL fans will say he could have played for an AMNRL team well the fact is he lives and works in Fla, so he couldn’t. To be denied the chance to play in the USARL and still retain his spot with the Tomahawks is disgusting.

    Be interesting to see if he is named in the final team and if he retains his captaincy or if he gets shafted for a ring-in.

    The USA team selection is rubbish and if Elliott isn’t aware of it, someone needs to let him know.

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