The North Queensland Cowboys upset the NRL’s reigning premiers, the Sydney Roosters, in Round 17 last year.
The United States certainly had a dream debut in Rugby League’s most prestigious event four years ago.
The Tomahawks shocked the world by progressing through to the quarterfinal stage. The Americans will be hoping to go one better in 2017 in preparation for the 2025 world cup on home soil where they aim to be joining the big three as one of the heavyweights.
RLIF World Ranking: 10
Best Result: Quarter Finalists (2013)
2013 Finish: Quarter Finals
2017 RLWC Odds: $1001
USA have a deeper history in rugby league than most know. They began their venture into the sport in the 1950s when an American touring side played Australia in front of a crowd of 65,000 at the SCG.
Attempts at rugby league did not start again until the late 1980s and since then the Tomahawks were anointed the representative side for the nation.
The Tomahawks have played in front of crowds in excess of 30,000 in games against Russia in Moscow to as recent as packed smaller scale venues against Canada.
Their debut at the RLWC was a successful one and something no one in the rugby league world would have predicted.
It ended in devastating fashion when the Kangaroos bought the side back down to earth in a 62-0 thumping in the quarterfinal.
The tournament was deemed as a success for the side though and enough to show that the US had arrived in rugby league.
Since the last world cup, the US has seen their split domestic competitions become one. The USARL are now the sole governing body that oversee a competition of twelve teams across two conferences.
This has seen all domestic players now eligible for the national team which is something that was not possible at the last world cup.
The Tomahawks compete at international level regularly in the Atlantic Cup and also hold annual test series against the Canadian Wolverines that is starting to become a very healthy rivalry.
The US have also managed to secure the services of one of the best coaches in the game by picking up Leeds Rhinos maestro, Brian McDermott. Big Mac will be aiming to replicate the success he has achieved at club level with the squad below.
Team Line Up
1. Corey Makalim
2. Ryan Burroughs
3. Junior Vaivai
4. Jonathan Alley
5. Bureta Faraimo
6. Kristian Freed
7. Matthew Walsh
8. Eddy Pettybourne
9. David Marando
10. Mark Offerdahl (c)
11. Danny Howard
12. Matt Shipway
13. Nicholas Newlin
14. Sam Tochterman-Talbott
15. Andrew Kneisly
16. Steve Howard
17. Gabriel Farley
Squad Members: Charles Joseph-Cortalano, Joe Eichner, David Ulch, Joshua Rice, Martwain Johnston, Taylor Alley
Nine members of the 2013 RLWC squad get to take part in another world cup campaign. Of the 23 selected, 11 players are from the USARL domestic competition with a further two players selected from the Toronto Wolfpack, which is a sign of McDermott showing faith in the local talent.
Junior Vaivai has suffered a stack of setbacks during what looked set to be a promising career.
After being named in the NYC team of the year in 2009 alongside players such as Kieran Foran, Gareth Widdop and Daly Chery-Evans – Vaivai was supposed to be one of the next big things.
Three ACL injuries later, he still hasn’t delivered the promised NRL career that league minds such as Phil Gould expected him to.
Junior has one more chance at getting back into the setup he was destined to be a part of as a teenager, if he can produce the goods while the rugby league world watches on during this tournament.
Fixtures and Opponents
Versus Fiji at Townsville Stadium, Townsville – Sat 28th Oct 8:40pm AEDT
Versus Italy at Townsville Stadium, Townsville – Sun 5th Nov 5pm AEDT
Versus PNG at OSNF Stadium, Port Moresby – Sun 12th Nov 4pm AEDT
The match against Fiji, semi-finalists of the last two world cups, is going to be a defining game for the USA this tournament.
A win against the Bati will give the Tomahawks a major advantage in Pool D where only the top placed team will progress through to the knock out stage.
Each game will be important but the highest ranked side the Americans face will be Fiji in their opening game, and to top the pool it is a challenge they need to overcome.
RLWC 2017 Prospects
A win in their opening game will give the USA the start they need in pool D however they’ve drawn the short straw when it comes to the intergroup matches by facing PNG in Port Moresby.
They will have to win at least two matches to be a shot at making it through to the pool stage however that will be very tough to accomplish.
No one gave the Tomahawks much hope four years ago either so nothing is impossible, but the question is can they do it again?