Joseph Eichner moved to Australia to pursue his dream of playing the sport at an elite level. (ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)
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The North Queensland Cowboys feeder club hopes its American import is more than the ‘average Joe’ when he trots out for his first QRL game this weekend.
- Eichner will play in their away game against Burleigh Bears
- The call-up comes as the Northern Pride experiences team injuries
- He formerly played for the US in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup
Florida forward Joseph Eichner, 27, will become the Cairns-based Northern Pride’s latest debutant, less than two years after moving to Australia to pursue his dream of playing rugby league at an elite level.
The 100-kilogram enforcer will come off the bench on Saturday afternoon in the Pride’s away clash with the Burleigh Bears, remarkably becoming the 15th player blooded by the club this season.
While others impress with their fluid skills and natural gifts, Pride football manager Chey Bird said Eichner’s more rugged traits were what caught his attention.
‘Tackles and hunts hard’ on the field
“His willingness to learn impressed our coaching staff initially,” he said.
“But what’s really impressive is his ability to bend a bloke in half.
“He hits as hard as he can when he tackles and hunts hard on the field. That’s a really key ingredient to our sport.”
Fuelled by a strong showing in the Cairns and District Rugby League competition and a series of injuries to the Pride, Eichner earned the call-up with coach Ty Williams delivering the news at training on Tuesday night.
“This entire journey over the last couple of years has been an amazing experience,” Eichner said.
“I just try to show up every week and take in the experience.
“I’m starting at an older age so what the guys around me are learning at seven years old, I’m picking up two decades later.
“It’s tough but I just roll with the punches.”
Varied career in several countries
The safety technician first discovered the rugby codes while studying at the University of Northern Florida in 2010 before joining the Jacksonville Axemen in the USA Rugby League competition.
Before joining Cairns Brothers this season, Joe Eichner played for the Junee Diesels in regional New South Wales. (Supplied: Instagram)
He moved onto the Toronto Wolfpack in Canada before representing the United States at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Encouraging performances against Papua New Guinea and Fiji led Eichner to move to Australia following the tournament.
“We had to throw everything we had at them,” Eichner said of his World Cup battles.
“I think I got a few good shots in. I know [Fiji’s] Ashton Sims got an even better one on me though.
“He built up some steam and caught me with an elbow and my face blew up straight away. I couldn’t really see [out of my eye] after that.”
With injury ravaging the Pride’s team list this season, football manager Bird said Eichner would add some much-needed muscle to a battered and bruised forward pack.
“He’s ticked all the boxes and he’s churned out great performances locally and in representative games, so he gets his chance,” he said.
A former premiership player with club, Bird quashed rumours that he might have threatened to become the 37th player to take the field for the Pride this season.
“It’s been said in jest but my boots are well and truly gathering dust,” he said.
The clash starts at 4pm at Pizzey Park at Miami on the Gold Coast.