US rep Mark Offerdahl sets sight on NRL

Mark Offerdahl hasn't played in the NRL yet but already has a World Cup campaign under his belt. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Mark Offerdahl hasn't played in the NRL yet but already has a World Cup campaign under his belt. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

RUGBY LEAGUE - ILLAWARRA CUTTERS

US international Mark Offerdahl has yet to notch an NRL appearance but the Illawarra Cutters recruit already knows what it's like to stare down the likes of Cameron Smith and Jarryd Hayne.

The 26-year-old was part of the United States team which was the talk of the World Cup after they reached the quarter-final stage with surprise wins over the Cook Islands and Wales.

Their efforts prompted Australian children's act The Wiggles to call for Tomahawks skipper Joseph Paulo's face to be added to Mount Rushmore.

The Tomahawks' run ended with a 62-0 thrashing by the Kangaroos but Offerdahl still speaks fondly of the experience even after arriving in Wollongong in a bid to make the NRL through Illawarra ranks.

"It was huge for me. It made me develop a lot as a player because I was playing with NRL guys like Joey Paulo and Clint Newton who taught me a lot," Offerdahl said.

"We ended up getting a game against Australia which is every boy's dream.

"I thought we were going to get battered but once we got on the field it as just another game of footy, albeit they scored 62 points, but it was still a great experience."

Those who think rugby league is not an international sport have never spoken to Offerdahl.

After he played juniors for Manly, he went on to win a league and cup double with AS Carcassonne in the French Elite One Championship and play with the Connecticut Wildcats in the US before he landed at North Wales Crusaders (formerly the Super League franchise Celtic Crusaders) in the UK this year.

Despite seeing the world, the son of Goondiwindi admits the nagging question about whether he could have made better use of his earlier NRL opportunities eventually lured him home.

"I had a good opportunity at Manly when I was younger. I was full-time there for a couple of years but I was young and stupid and never really took the opportunities," he said.

"I always had better things to do instead of training and doing what I should have done.

"When that was all over, it was too little too late and then I found myself on the plane to France. Ever since, it's always in the back of your head, what you could have done and what could happen.

"I'm getting a bit older now - I'm 27 this year - so I thought I'd come back over and give it another crack."

Contrary to reports from his former club in Wales, Offerdahl has not signed with St George-Illawarra.

He will ply his trade with Corrimal in the Illawarra Coal League as he looks to earn a call-up to the Cutters before contemplating an NRL start with the Dragons.

"Getting into the Cutters is first. There's a big waiting list coming here middle of the season so I've got a lot to do to work my way into that team before I think about anything else," he said.

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