Young Axemen heading to Australia
Casey Clark heading to the try line for one of his many trys during 2011
“Casey Clark will certainly be able to contribute the moment he gets to Australia”, said Spinner Howland. “With his age, his athleticism and his dedication to learn and prepare physically, he is the Axemens best chance of having a player make a high level of professional Rugby League. He is the type of player who listens and learns quickly. I remember making a comment about him having a much better side step off one foot than the other and it was a bit predictable. He never said anything about it, but I watched him for the rest of the season make efforts at practice to continually work on his weaker side and by the end of the season he was stepping of both just as well. That is the kind of player that makes it in this game.”
Casey Clarks History: In the spring of 2006 Casey Clark kicked off his rugby life, playing for the Missoula Maggots, a rugby UNION men’s club in Missoula, Montana. Casey was only 15 yrs old. Traveling with his older brother Matthew (Maggots Flanker) they toured all over the Northwest playing in tournaments. When a high school team saw Casey’s talents, they invited him on a tour with them to Canada. The team played a weekend long tournament in Vulcan, Alberta. On his return to the states he asked a hand full of Missoula Maggots to start the Montana high school rugby association. What followed was the creation of the Drummond RFC in Casey’s hometown of Drummond, Montana. Casey played and captained the Drummond RFC and led them to the first of 2 state championships.
After high school Casey’s sister in-law and fellow rugger Roxie Lovett of the Atlanta Harlequins RFC, got Casey enrolled in a rugby exchange program that sent him to year 13 of high school to Onehunga High School in Auckland, New Zealand. Due to international import regulations Casey was unable to play regular season rugby union games with the 1st XV (Varsity), however, he played for the 2nd XV, equivalent to the Junior Varsity. Additionally, he was able to play in international invitational games. He played against a high school team from Samoa and started against a high school team touring from Newcastle, England. Later, he continued his rugby carrier, playing for Collage Rifles RFC U-19 in Remuera, Auckland. While playing for the U-19s team he was coached by the legendary All-Black flanker Josh Kronfeld. The U-19 team took 4th in the Auckland rugby competition. After the U-19 season, Casey joined the club 7s team which was coached by New Zealand 7s player Edwin Cocker. With the 7s team, Casey was able to travel the capital island of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga. The 7s team spent a week on the island training and competing in the annual 7s invitational tournament. Following the 7s season, Casey joined the U-21 team of College Rifles. During this season he was occasionally asked to be a reserve for the Reserve grade of the club.
When Casey finally returned the U.S., after nearly three years overseas, he went to California where he began training with the top ranked St. Mary’s College rugby team. He had aspirations to attend the college and play for the team, however, due to insufficient credentials; he was not able to attend the spring semester. Casey finished his time in California playing for the Vacaville RFC.
Once the spring rugby union season ended, Casey then travelled to Jacksonville Florida. It was here that he was introduced to Rugby League. He began playing for the Jacksonville Axemen, alongside his brother and USA Tomahawk rugby league representative Matthew Clark. He also played alongside other international rugby league representatives such as, Kenny Britt,(USA Tomahawks), Bob Knoepfel,(USA Tomahawks), Shannon Hagardy(South Sidney Rabbitos), and renowned sexy man and rugby league icon, Brent Shorten.
Casey’s first season playing rugby league was nothing short of amazing. The cross-over player had a standout season playing lock for the Axemen and received Player of the Day, on two occasions, against Philadelphia and Rhode Island. After the Axemen season he competed in the International Atlantic Cup in Jacksonville. Yet again, he received Player of the Day while playing against the British Police and aided in the defeat of the Helensburgh Tigers from Australia. Through contacts made during the Atlantic Cup with many current and former Helensburgh players, such as Bryce and Brodie Collins, Brent Shorten, Scott Peterson, and Steve McCallum, Casey decided to travel to Australia and play for the Helensburgh RLFC. He has hopes of playing for the club’s 1st grade team and also perhaps be looked at for representative sides.
The Helensburgh Tigers are an Australian rugby league football team based in Helensburgh, a country town of the Illawarra region. The club is apart of Country Rugby League and has competed in the Illawarra Rugby League premiership since its inception in 1911. Helensburg has had many outstanding players move on to higher levels of the game. Players like Neil Piccinelli (Steelers, Mariners, Knights back-rower), Justin Poore (Dragons and Eels front-rower), Dave Broughton (Sharks and Reds back-rower), Phil Doran (Sharks player in the 80s), Scott Dudman (Sharks, Raiders forward), John Griffiths (Sharks lower grader), just to name a few. One can see that this is a great honor for an American player with only one year of RL play, to be asked by a team like Helensburg to come join their squad for the next season. On February 18, 2012, Casey will make that happen and represent all USA Rugby League Players.
Being an American, 21-year old man headed “down under” to test his talents against the best. Casey is just as anxious and excited as he was when he was that 15 year old boy playing rugby with a men’s club not too many years ago in Montana. But as any athlete knows, to be the best you must learn and compete with the best.