The lure of contracts with the proposed New York City team aiming to join Toronto Wolfpack in Super League will provide added motivation for USA players at this week’s Downer World Cup 9s.
With members of the New York City bid anticipating being given the green light to try and follow the Wolfpack’s route to the Super League from the 2021 season, players have already been sounded out about the possibility of joining the first professional United States rugby league outfit.
Based at Red Bull Stadium, the NYC bid has promised to provide North American players an opportunity to play the game at the highest level and USA players were given an update on developments after going into camp in Sydney for the World Cup 9s.
“A few of the guys back home are in contact with the people taking care of it and as far as I have heard it is going through in 2021,” Cairns-based USA forward Joe Eichner said.
“I believe they are already looking at players, they have talked to us about it a little bit. They told us not to worry about it at this tournament, just to go out and play but I think they have a few players in mind that they want to take.
“This tournament is great exposure for the game and great exposure for the boys. Hopefully it will open up a few doors and I think a lot of the guys are trying to play for contracts in 2021 with New York.”
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Eichner, who was born and raised in Florida, was first exposed to rugby league when South Sydney played Leeds before a record crowd at Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida in 2007 and he got to train with the Rhinos when they returned for an off-season camp four years later.
He was a member of Toronto’s initial squad in 2017 but did not play a game and was loaned to lower tier English club Underbank Rangers, who are based at Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, before moving to Australia after the World Cup.
After this season making his Queensland Cup debut for Northern Pride, Eichner has been re-signed for another year but he hopes to return to the United States in 2021 if New York City are given the green light by the RFL.
“If that bid goes through that would kind of be the end goal. I would put my hand up in a heartbeat. You would want to kind of play for the first professional US rugby league team,” Eichner said.
“I think it would be amazing to play at Red Bull Stadium in front of a crowd of Americans and introduce the game to them. It is everything they love - it is quick and it is contact.
“Toronto is consistently selling out every weekend so if they can break into that United States market I think the game will grow immensely and the US will become a real threat internationally.”
For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to nrl.com/tickets.