USA Hawks coach Brian McDermott says he is proud of his squad as they approach their final game of the 2017 World Cup in Papua New Guinea and believes big strides have been made with the US-based players to take the game forward in the States.
Having defeated Canada and Jamaica to book their place in Australia, the Hawks have suffered defeats to Italy and Fiji, but Leeds Rhinos chief McDermott says the results should not overshadow the progress made.
He said: “Game days have been tough. The board of US Rugby League took a brave decision in this World Cup cycle to put a strong focus on homegrown players and the domestic competition.
“This group of players can stand in front of an audience back home and tell people exactly what rugby league is and why it is so great.
“They can do it with an air of authority because they are Americans who have played for their country at a World Cup.
“I know from my experience down in London that some times you have to take a hit when it comes to wins and losses to take strides forward in developing local players and putting down roots for the game.
“The World Cup is still vital for developing our game. You only need to look at the progression of Papua New Guinea over the last three or four World Cups.
“A few years back they could barely muster a competitive side together but are now genuine contenders.
“Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are all full of quality players who play at a high grade and are benefitting from playing at the highest level.”
The Hawks have arrived in Port Moresby ahead of their clash with the Kumuls.
McDermott said: “The welcome we have received as been incredible but it moved up to another level this week when we arrived in Papua New Guinea.
“The Kumuls fans go crazy for rugby league and we have been made to feel like movie stars. I was here 20 years ago with the Great Britain side and the reception was nothing like we have received this week.
“Port Moresby has been really developed over the last two decades and the locals appreciate anyone who comes to their country to play Rugby League. We have been made to feel extremely welcome.”