USA excited for monumental World Cup 9s challenge
Article by: Troy Whittaker NRL.com Reporter - Click for Full Article
Drawn in a pool alongside Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, the Florida native understands why the Hawks have been given little hope of reaching the semifinals.
However, Eichner - who plays in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup for the Northern Pride - says the chance to take on NRL and international stars at Bankwest Stadium on October 18-19 will be a huge thrill.
"You look at our pool and you think, 'That's pretty ridiculous'," Eichner told NRL.com. "But I'm actually looking forward to getting on the pitch against Australia and New Zealand. It's going to be an amazing experience out there with that calibre of players and it'll be an amazing atmosphere."
Eichner's rugby league journey is an interesting tale.
His first oval ball experience came playing rugby union at the University of North Florida in 2009. He later joined the Jacksonville Axemen in the USA Rugby League competition.
Earning his maiden international cap in 2016, Eichner's rise continued when the Toronto Wolfpack, then competing in the English third division, signed him the next year.
"It was kind of like getting thrown to the wolves, no pun intended," Eichner said.
The 27-year-old back-rower was part of the USA's team in 2017 World Cup hosted by Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
After enjoying two matches in Townsville and consulting a few teammates, Eichner decided to play at least one season in Australia.
"I always liked travelling and footy was my way to do that ... I considered going back to England but once I got here to Oz, I realised I really liked it," he said.
"Last year I played for the Junee Diesels in Group 9."
Starting this season with the Cairns Brothers, Eichner's form prompted the Northern Pride to bring him on as a development player.
He became the first American-born player to feature in the Intrust Super Cup in August.
"Things kind of went my way and I ended up getting three ISC games under my belt at the end," he said.
The USA's squad for the inaugural World Cup Nines is largely comprised of home-grown players plying their trade in the country's domestic scene.
"We have a lot of talent and a lot of them played with me in the last World Cup," Eichner said.
Promising Cronulla Sharks rookie Ronaldo Mulitalo, former NRL players Eddy Pettybourne and Junior Vaivai and Hull FC winger Bureta Faraimo are also set to represent the USA.
"Our roster looks pretty good; you can't really count anybody out," Eichner said.
"I'm hoping we'll do pretty good ... It's a massive accomplishment when you represent your country at any sport, let alone the sport that you love playing."
Eichner anticipates fitness to be the biggest battle given the unstructured nature of Nines.
And with guys like Kalyn Ponga and Shaun Johnson expected to feature for their countries, he knows his agility will get tested.
"I just hope none of the big names end up juking me out of my shoes and breaking my ankles," he laughed.