THE WORLD’S ROOKIES
Three years ago, Nick Newlin hadn’t heard of rugby league, but is now heading to the World Cup with the USA Hawks. An ex-Marine who played American football, baseball, soccer and rugby union growing up, he immediately loved league after attending a try-out in 2014.
“If I had known there was a sport called rugby league when I started rugby union, I would have gravitated towards it,” says Newlin. “I think it just fits the American football style a lot better than rugby union.
“I enjoyed it a lot and had a good season, and was voted captain and coaches’ player, and all those good things that went along with it. So 2014 was a good year and a good introduction to rugby league.”
Three Australians helped Newlin and the Atlanta Rhinos learn the game – including American-based league pioneer Daryl “Spinner” Howland – and used American football terminology to speed up the transition.
“How Spinner Howland sold it to us – the mindset of 13 linebackers versus 13 running backs, just going at each other for 80 minutes – was a big draw for a lot of us,” Newlin says.
“In college, I played linebacker – that taught me a lot about tackling. I think it was better for me going into league. I think in league, making upwards of 35-40 tackles, taking what I learned in football on the rugby field is an advantage.
“I feel that’s the strongest part of my game, defensively, and keeping guys in front of me and making strong tackles.”
Newlin is one of 12 domestic-based players in the Hawks’ World Cup side. They’ve decided against picking heritage players to give their local products a chance to play against the best.
The Americans wrap-up the Cook Islands' Jordan Rapana at the 2013 World Cup.