Mark Offerdahl: American Dream

USA captain Mark Offerdahl says the goal of the American team at next year’s World Cup is to match their achievement in the 2013 tournament.

Three years ago the USA side stunned many by reaching the quarter-final stage.

That tournament remains the highlight of Offerdahl’s career.

“The 2013 Rugby League World Cup is without a shadow of a doubt the best thing I have ever been involved in,” he told Love Rugby League.

“What made it more special was that we weren’t expected to do anything in the tournament.

“I think we defied the odds because of the unity within the team. The whole team was together. Even during free time we were doing stuff together.”

“It might seem reasonable to suggest that expectations have gone up since the USA’s last World Cup outing but Offerdahl would be delighted if they just matched the achievements of 2013 next year.

USA have been drawn alongside Fiji and a European team yet to be confirmed in Group D for the 2017 World Cup. The Americans will play the Bati, the European side and Papua New Guniea.

“Since the last World Cup we have lost a lot of experience in the tea,” Offerdahl said.

“Of course it would be silly for me to deny not wanting to progress further but I would be happy if we got to where we did last time.

“When I saw the draw for next year’s event, we have been handed some tough matches. Fiji were semi-finalists last time.

“If we can get some heritage players to play for the USA then we will definitely be competitive.”

The concept of heritage players – those who are from one country but qualify to play for another country through their family relations – is one which Offerdahl approves of but believes there should be tighter regulations around the number of players who can play for one side.

The prop, who was born in Queensland, qualifies for the USA through his father who is fron Wisconsin.

“To make some nations competitive it’s a must but I do believe there should be a percentage rule because some teams take advantage.

“Until the RLIF [Rugby League International Federation] creates a new rule, countries will continue to abuse the system.”

After his playing career, Offerdahl plans to move over to America and help out with the development of the game in the US.

“At the minute I want to focus on my career as a player but in the future I definitely want to play a more prominent role in helping to grow the game.

“One of the teams which has recently been established are the White Plains Wombats based near New York.

“They are coming towards the end of their 1st ever season and all of the staff including Phil Shacter, Luke Barron, Matt Walsh and Jack Molloy deserve a lot of credit for the work they have done.

“Throughout North America, there is a real interest and passion for Rugby League. New York has three teams. Philadelphia has a strong offering. Reserve grade is strong in the south.

“There is also the new Toronto team which in my opinion will grow the game in Canada tenfold. It could be the spark that makes the game big in the US.”

Although there are positive signs over in the USA, Offerdahl still believes there is a lot of work to be done.

“One of the main issues is awareness – a lot of people don’t know there are two codes,” the 28-year old admits.

“The appetite is certainly there. Americans love watching contact sport but to take the game to the next level, it needs help from the likes of the RFL and NRL.

“Their input and guidance on every sense of the game and how to run competitions would be invaluable.”

 

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