Inside Sport - - IN HINDSIGHT -

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.

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