Tue 16 April
AMNRL Media and Communications Director Brian Lowe reports directly from the USA camp as the Tomahawks prepare for their first ever World Cup campaign, this week speaking to one of the USA’s most pivotal players.
When the American Rugby League World Cup squad arrives in Widnes in October to prepare for its inaugural appearance at the big dance, it will be a homecoming of sorts for a Tomahawk stalwart.
Curtis Cunz made his international rugby league debut for the USA in Widnes in 2007 when the Tomahawks faced off against Samoa in the final round of qualifying for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, and he’s the only member of the team who has played in every one of America’s test matches since then.
Cunz started in the second row in that qualifying match, but these days he’s very adaptable and can also slot into the back row or centres depending on where he’s needed.
“Each selection I make never gets old for me and I relish every moment I get knowing that each time I step on the field, or carry the ball, or make a big tackle or offload it could be my last,” said Cunz. “Nothing is taken for granted.”
The Tomahawks have had a pretty good run since that day in 2007, winning 77 per cent of their games.
Cunz has become one of the USA’s more experienced homegrown products and played a key role in the team’s successful run through the RLWC2013 Atlantic Zone qualifiers in 2011.
He says he tries to stay relaxed and loose before a game and credits his development to playing beside his experienced teammates including the likes of captain Apple Pope, Matt Petersen, Joseph Paulo, David Myles, Ryan McGoldrick, Mark Cantoni and David Marando among others.
“It’s always a blessing in that I always learn so much each time we get together and most importantly gain more confidence in my ability, which helps develop a slight bit of a chip on my shoulder.
And I believe you should have to play Rugby League more than any other sport in the world,” added Cunz.
“There is nothing I would want to trade for my slot on the team.”
The fact that the USA has qualified for RLWC013 has not gone unnoticed at home, and according to Cunz, it’s helping the growth of Rugby League in America.
He says it’s bigger than ever.
“With us qualifying for Rugby League World Cup 2013, it has brought a lot of attention to us locally, but also internationally. I have read articles referring to the United States as the sleeping giant of Rugby League and other similar phrases and that says a lot,” commented Cunz.
As for the team’s expectations, given that the Tomahawks have never been to a World Cup in their relatively brief history, the coaching staff and players alike are keeping things in check.
However, make no mistake, they believe in their own abilities and are convinced they can make some noise.
“I expect coaches Matty Elliott, David Niu, Marcus Vassilakopoulos and the rest of the staff to provide us with a comfortable environment and a good area to set up camp and we can focus on building our structure to where we can best utilise our skills,” continued Cunz.
“With our momentum we have been building on over the last few years, I think there has been a quiet whisper going around on the inside deep in our camp that we are trying to shock the world by making it out of the first round of RLWC2013.
“I certainly hear the noise. I just hope to be a part of it, and the bigger the better.”
The Tomahawks face Cook Islands at the Memorial Stadium, Bristol, on October 30, Wales at the Racecouse Ground, Wrexham, on November 3 and Scotland at the Salford City Stadium on November 7.
Tickets are now on sale for RLWC2013, with 55% of tickets priced £20 or less. To make sure you will BE THERE buy now at www.rlwc2013.com or call our 24 Hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.