James Tedesco and Daly Cherry-Evans make eye-opening call on finishing careers in US

Rugby league powerbokers have been floating the prospect of an exciting expansion into the United States.

From left to right, NRL stars Daly Cherry-Evans and James Tedesco.
Daly Cherry-Evans and James Tedesco both say they'd be tempted by the lure of playing professionally in the USA. Pic: Getty

Roosters captain James Tedesco and Manly opposite Daly Cherry-Evans have both admitted they'd be tempted to finish their rugby league careers in America, if a professional league got off the ground. Sea Eagles owner Scott Penn is among a number of business owners keen to set up a professional league in the United States, which will play host to Sunday's NRL season opener in Las Vegas.

The NRL has this week officially taken over Allegiant Stadium for the historic double header that will see Cherry-Evans' Manly take on South Sydney, followed by Tedesco's Roosters squaring off with the Brisbane Broncos. It will give US businessmen the chance to cast their eye over the sport, with Penn's group of business owners meets with ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys this weekend to pitch a vision for the game in America.

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The United States already has a saturated sporting market but NRL stars such as Tedesco and Cherry-Evans admit the idea of playing in America is a tempting one. NRL players often finish their careers in England or other parts of Europe but the appeal of the States is compelling and Manly's captain is keen to endorse his club owner's push into the lucrative US market.

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"If Scott wants to get it rolling, I'm happy to," Cherry-Evans said. "Obviously I don't have a heck of time left in my rugby league career, and I'm loving what's happening at Manly at the moment.

"I'm very open-minded about contract stuff and where my career could end up. So we'll see how we go. But it's nice to have the owner of our current club pushing for an American opportunity. And that's an easy transition for me."

America's top tier league competition right now is an amateur set up played in regional conferences. And there is a sense from league powerbrokers that the best way to break into the American market is to give new fans something to connect to on a local level. While NRL players choosing USA over Europe would likely have to sacrifice some money, Tedesco says the lifestyle makes it an appealing prospect.

"Definitely (interested). It would be a very cool experience," Tedesco said. "That's what the hope is, bringing the game here. You never know, it might spark some interest from around America. Even when we were in Los Angeles those are professional rugby union teams ... I'm sure if they're playing rugby union, they'll want to play rugby league.

Seen here, James Tedesco speaks to the media during the NRL's official launch in Las Vegas.
James Tedesco speaks to the media during the NRL's official launch in Las Vegas. Pic: Getty

"So to be able to live in America and play rugby league ... I mean, England's obviously cool as well. But yeah, it's nice weather here." Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell is another one whose backed the push into the United States, but at just 26 is probably not as close to Cherry-Evans (35) and Tedesco (31) in calling time on his NRL career.

"If it's warm all year round instead of going to England, I think a lot of players would (be interested)," Mitchell said at a Fox League launch. "Honestly, I'm optimistic, so I'm very excited to see. And if that's in conversation, it only takes conversation ... anything could happen."

Confident Latrell Mitchell brushes off field size concerns

Mitchell has vowed to bring the entertainment factor to Las Vegas, amid concerns the smaller field size could affect point-scoring and the attacking flair of both games. Five metres has been shaved off the width of a normal rugby league field due to the smaller dimensions used in the NFL. The Allegiant Stadium field is also shorter, with the usual 100 metres from tryline to tryline down to 94.5.

"When I was young, I used to run around people. Now I'm 26 or 27, I just run over them," Mitchell told AAP at Fox League's launch in Vegas. "You've got to make your own space. It's a tighter game, tighter field... the entertainment is going to be there, it's going to be there but it's just about feeling our way through round one and getting the cobwebs off. We're buzzing. Because we get to do what we love on the world stage now. Trell-Mit has been global for a very long time and now he's here."

Seen here, Latrell Mitchell speaking in Las Vegas.
Latrell Mitchell has promised to bring the entertainment for fans during the NRL's Las Vegas season opener. Pic: Getty

The NRL has sold close to 38,000 tickets for the Vegas double-header, with a crowd of more than 40,000 a realistic proposition. Tedesco says if the games "can impact a small percentage of Americans" then it will no doubt be classified as a win for the sport.

"America is so big, the market here is as unbelievable. There are so many sports," Tedesco said "If we get a solid crowd of Americans, get a small percentage tuning into the game and maybe some traction from from athletes who are at the game or watching, that'd be a success. If they do tune in they'll enjoy the game."

with AAP

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