US tour of duty
By STEVE SPINKS
TWO strapping lads from Kyogle are about to do their bit for Uncle Sam.
Mitch Carter and Steve Hayes are both about to join the United States Emerging Rugby League Team ... as strappers.
Otherwise known as the Tomahawks, the young American side will be touring Northern NSW and Southern Queensland for the next two weeks, starting this weekend at the Orara Valley Axeman International Sevens Tournament at Coramba.
Carter and Hayes, however, will not join the squad until after the team's second match, which is against a combined Group 2 side on Australia Day.
The duo got mixed up with the Emerging Americans through a former Kyogle player, Phil Shipos.
Shipos spent the 2003 season with the Turkeys on loan from his team in New Jersey.
Shipos is part of the Tomahawks' touring squad and he put in a good word for his former strappers with David Niu, who is the chief executive officer of the American National Rugby League.
Carter said the duo were notified they would be strappers.
However, now that John Cartwright (former Penrith player and Sydney Roosters assistant coach) has taken over as head coach, Carter thinks the pair may be used in another capacity.
Either way, the Kyogle boys are looking forward to teaching the Americans some Aussie slang words.
"It'll be a great experience," Carter said.
"Phil ... he's good value.
"It should be a lot of fun."
The duo won't travel with the team, but will help out on match days.
Their first match is when the Tomahawks play Runaway Bay on January 29.
Following that, there will be matches against Casino at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino, on February 1 and Tugun at Tugun on February 3.
Their final match will be when the USA take on the Tweed Seagulls State League team as the main curtain-raiser to the National Rugby League trial match between Parramatta and Cronulla at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on February 5.
While the Tomahawks team is vastly different to the one that ran Australia so close last November, it still contains a number of high profile players.
They include captain Ian Blake, of Texas, who has just signed with the Brisbane Broncos, and former National Rugby League players Brandon Costin (Canberra) and Steel Retchless (Broncos).
Both Costin and Retchless qualify to play for the USA through their grandparents.
Another name of interest is winger Nate Smith.
Smith played in the Test against Australia and gave up a lucrative college scholarship to play Gridiron because of his love for rugby league.
Apparently, he is close to signing a contract with an English Super League Club.