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2 days ago
THE American Rugby League has earmarked US-born Knights forward Clint Newton as the man to captain the Tomahawks in a one-off international against Australia in Philadelphia on December 1.
The problem is he is serving a lengthy suspension.
Newcastle and US management officially applied to the NRL for Newton to represent the Americans.
NRL officials referred the request to judiciary chairman Greg Woods, who rejected the US application but said the match could count as part of Newton's suspension.
The Americans plan to continue lobbying the NRL and are considering lodging another application.
American National Rugby League president and former St George halfback David Niu hopes the NRL will relent on the issue for the goodwill of international football.
Newton was born in South Carolina while famous father Jack was playing golf at the 1981 US Open.
"Representing the USA is dear to Clint's heart. He holds an American passport," Niu said.
"It would be a big ask to let him play but it would be fantastic if it could happen in the best interests of rugby league.
"Our goal here is to make the next World Cup and Clint would be a leader for us."
Newton was suspended for 12 matches for striking St George Illawarra prop Ashton Sims during a round 24 match.
He missed the remaining two premiership matches. He will have two trials counted in his suspension as well as the US game - meaning Newton will now return for Newcastle in round eight next season.
"We were approached by the Knights and the American National Rugby League to allow Clint to play in the game," confirmed NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley.
"When there is a matter of discretion, it is the chairman who makes the decision because he has heard the case."
The US team will comprise several current and former NRL players, some from England and others from the local US league.
Parramatta's Matt Petersen will be on the wing for the Tomahawks. His grandfather was born in California.
Former Wests Tigers player Mark O'Halloran has agreed to line up, as has former St George Illawarra and Roosters player Shane Millard. Both currently play in England.
Former Crushers and London Broncos forward Steele Retchless will also represent the US, as will ex-Canberra centre Brandon Costin, who plays for Huddersfield.
All qualify through having a US-born grandparent.
The US is also chasing Newcastle centre George Carmont, who is American-Samoan, Castleford's John Wells and Julian O'Neill, a New Zealander who has played with Widnes and St Helens.
Roosters assistant coach John Cartwright will coach the Tomahawks, who play Australia after the current Tri-Nations tournament.
"If we can get 10,000 people to the game I would be over the moon," Niu said.
"The interest [in the US] has been incredible. A heap of Australian ex-pats want to see the match.
"It will give rugby league a real kick-along and also give the game credibility.
"We see NRL matches here every week now and get the State of Origin live.
"We will also see the back-end of the Tri-Nations tournament.
"A lot of college footballers are starting to come across to rugby league."