By BRIAN LOWE
THERE’S probably not a whole heck of a lot to be read into the Pacific Tri-Series in Fiji at the weekend, but nonetheless, there just might be some takeaways from it for the United States Hawks.
Essentially, the series was a Rugby League World Cup warm-up for Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia, although it was played in a unique format of three matches, each of 40 minutes duration, on the one day.
The PNG Kumuls scored a 10-0 win against the Fiji Bati in the opening contest, the Kangaroos then posted a 20-4 victory over PNG, before shutting out Fiji 18-0 in the final period.
The abbreviated format was suggested by Australia head coach Mal Meninga, the idea being to give players in the respective RLWC squads of each country a chance to have a final hit-out with their new teammates prior to the serious stuff getting underway at the end of the month.
It also provided rugby league fans in Fiji with a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s best players in action.
However, because the games were all streamed online, something else it might have done, and not necessarily by design, was to give the Americans a bonus sneak peek at some of their RLWC opposition.
The US faces Fiji and Papua New Guinea in pool play. The Hawks open their campaign against the Bati in Townsville on Saturday, October 28.
Neither team professes to know much about the other, so getting a chance to watch the Fijians in action even if it was in a shortened format, will have been particularly useful for the Hawks’ coaching staff.
The NRL is televised weekly in the US on one of the cable TV sporting channels that comes as part of basic packages, so names like Jarryd Hayne, Kevin Naiqama, Suliasi Vunivalu and Korbin Sims will all be familiar to folks Stateside. What won’t have been so familiar is seeing them play alongside each other.
Going into the Pacific Tri-Series, one of the main things Fiji head coach Mick Potter wanted to hone in on was defensive patterns, suggesting they needed to be worked on.
“Our focus will be on our defence as this is the area we have had problems with,” he said.
Judging by the results though, it may need a bit more work as Fiji leaked a point about every three minutes in their 80 minutes of football, while not being able to get on the scoreboard themselves.
That said, however, the coach says confidence within the squad hasn’t been dented.
“Our confidence level is good,” added Potter. “The players now have two weeks to prepare for the USA team.”
One other thing working in the Americans’ favour is the fact that their opponents haven’t seen much, if any, tape on them.
The US has played just two internationals this summer against Jamaica and Canada and neither game was televised or streamed, which has left their RLWC pool competitors not exactly sure who to key in on as part of their game plans.
That fact won’t be lost on Hawks head coach Brian McDermott, who’s fresh off devising a winning game plan of his own with Super League champions Leeds Rhinos.