14 American Rugby League Best Players of All Time

John Rizzo

American rugby league has been a growing sport in the United States since the formation of the American National Rugby League (AMNRL) in 1997. The AMNRL was the first domestic rugby league competition in the country, and hosted an annual league from 1998 to 2013.

During its existence, the AMNRL was recognized by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) as the governing body for the sport in the United States, and oversaw the United States national rugby league team, the Tomahawks.

Despite its closure in 2014, the AMNRL left a lasting legacy, and the sport is still played and enjoyed by many people in the United States today.

Table of Contents

1. Joe Eichner

Joe Eichner Career

  • 2015–17: Jacksonville Axemen
  • 2017–18: Toronto Wolfpack
  • 2019–21: Northern Pride RLFC
  • 2021: New York Freedom
  • 2016–17: United States
  • 2019: United States 9s

Joe Eichner is a second-row forward who has played for the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Joe was born in Germany to an American father and German mother, and he moved to the United States when he was three years old.

He started playing rugby at a young age but switched to football after being spotted by scouts while playing for his school team. 

After spending two seasons with UCLA, Joe signed with Chelsea in 2013 where he made 43 appearances over two seasons before joining Manchester City in 2015 - where he won the Premier League title that season.

Joe joined Bayern Munich on loan during the 2017/18 season and helped them win their fourth consecutive Bundesliga title. Joe Eichner is an American actor, comedian and writer. 

He is known for his starring role as Noah Foster in the FX comedy series Sons of Anarchy, for which he won a Golden Globe Award nomination. In 2014, he portrayed Dr.

Billy Murphy on the Showtime television series House of Lies and in 2018 starred as Barry Goldwater in the HBO biographical film Vice Presidential Candidate: The Ronald Reagan Story. 

Eichner has also appeared in films such as Funny People, Bridesmaids, and Bad Santa 2 and had a recurring role as Klaus Mikaelson on The Vampire Diaries from 2009 to 2013. 

Before being written out due to character development reasons He currently stars in the Netflix sitcom Disjointed alongside Nat Faxon Eichner was born on December 6th 1984).

Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania)and raised primarily by his mother who worked multiple jobs to support her sons interests; Joe began writing jokes at 13 years old.

2. Mark Offerdahl

Mark Offerdahl Career

  • 2011–13: AS Carcassonne
  • 2014: North Wales Crusaders
  • 2015: Connecticut Wildcats
  • 2016–17: London Broncos
  • 2016(loan): Oxford
  • 2018: Sheffield Eagles
  • 2021: New York Freedom
  • 2011–17: United States
  • 2019: United States 9s
  • 2021: New York Freedom

Mark Offerdahl is a rugby union player who has represented Australia in international competition. He made his debut for AS Carcassonne in 2011 and went on to play 22 games for them over two seasons before joining North Wales Crusaders in 2014.

In 2015, he joined the Connecticut Wildcats, where he played 14 matches before retiring at the end of that season due to injury. Mark Offerdahl is a former American professional rugby league footballer who played for the London Broncos in the National Rugby League.

He also had stints playing for Oxford and Sheffield Eagles before joining New York Freedom in 2019. Offerdahl represented the United States on international level from 2011 to 2017, amassing 28 caps and four tries during that time span. 

After retiring from playing rugby league, he became an assistant coach with his former club, London Broncos, in 2018

3. Ryan Burroughs

Ryan Burroughs Career

  • 2016: Wentworthville Magpies
  • 2017–18: Toronto Wolfpack
  • 2018(loan): London Skolars
  • 2018(loan): Barrow Raiders
  • 2019: Northern Virginia Eagles
  • 2015: United States
  • 2019: United States 9s
  • 2019: Old Glory DC
  • 2021: Washington DC Cavalry

Ryan Burroughs is a fullback who has played for Wentworthville in the NRL. He was born in 1991 and started playing rugby league when he was just six years old.

Ryan's main strength lies on his attacking play, which can cause problems for defenders both with ball-carrying and running support. In 2016, Ryan represented New South Wales under 20s at the National Championships, impressing coach Laurie Daley enough to be given a call-up to the Waratahs squad later that year.

After making his debut against Queensland Country in Round 8 of the 2017 season, Ryan went on to make twelve appearances for Wentworthville.

Before being released by the club at the end of 2018 due to salary cap restrictions Ryan Burroughs is a rugby union player who has represented the United States at international level.

He first made an impression with his performances for Old Glory DC, and has since been named in the USA squad for the 2019 World Cup. Ryan Burroughs is known for his strength and power on the field, as well as his ability to score tries from anywhere on the pitch.

Also Played For: toronto wolfpack

4. Eddy Pettybourne

Eddy Pettybourne Career

  • 2007–12 : South Sydney
  • 2013 : Wests Tigers
  • 2014 : Wigan Warriors
  • 2015–17 : Gold Coast Titans
  • 2018–19 : Toulouse 
  • 2019–21 : Villeneuve Leopards
  • 2021 : Brooklyn Kings
  • 2021–22 : Red Star Belgrade
  • 2021–22 : Limoux Grizzlies
  • 2022 : Keighley Cougars

Pettybourne made his NRL debut for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2007 and quickly established himself as a frontline prop. He played for the West Tigers in 2013 and 2014 before signing with Wigan Warriors in 2015.

Pettybourne was a regular bench player for the Kiwis and played in the 2014 World Cup. 

He joined the Rabbitohs for the 2016 season and has played a key role in their campaign for the 2017 NRL Premiership. Pettybourne is a powerful and athletic prop and is ideally suited to the second row.

He has been a member of the New Zealand national team since 2011 and has played at the World Cup, Asia Cup and Four Nations tournaments. 

Pettybourne is married and has two young children. He is a popular and well-respected member of the NRL community and is widely considered to be one of the best props in the game.

Pettybourne is currently contracted to the Rabbitohs until the end of the 2019 season.

5. Daniel Howard

Daniel Howard Career

  • 2011–18 : United States
  • 2019_ : United States 9s

Daniel Howard is an American actor and musician. He is known for his roles as Ian Gallagher on the TV series "The O.C.", as well as for his work on the Broadway stage.

Howard was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in Connecticut. He began his acting career in 2002, appearing in several minor roles on television. 

In 2007, Howard landed the role of Ian Gallagher on the TV series "The O.C.", which helped him to gain wider recognition.

Howard left "The O.C." in 2007 after three seasons, but continued to appear in various television and film roles. 

In 2012, Howard starred in the Broadway play "The Normal Heart", for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. Howard is also a musician, and has released two albums: "The Wanderer" in 2009 and "No one is Lost" in 2013.

Howard is married to actress Olivia Thirlby, with whom he has two children.

6. Taioalo Vaivai

Taioalo Vaivai Career

  • 2009–11 : South Sydney
  • 2011 : Penrith Panthers
  • 2018–19 : Hull KR
  • 2019(loan) : York City Knights
  • 2019–22 : Toulouse Olympique
  • 2016–17 : United States
  • 2019– : United States

Taioalo Vaivai was born on January 18, 1990 in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a centre and five-eighth and has played for the Auckland Blues, the New Zealand Maori, the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm in the NRL.

He has also played for the New Zealand Sevens side and the New Zealand U20 side. He is the son of former Kiwi international, Keven Vaivai. 

He was a part of the Melbourne Storm side which was defeated by the Cronulla Sharks in the 2017 NRL Grand Final.

He has represented New Zealand in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. He is a member of the Auckland Blues side which is playing in the 2018 NRL Auckland Nines. Taioalo Vaivai is a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. He married his long-time girlfriend, Georgia, in 2017.

Taioalo Vaivai is a Tongan international rugby league footballer who plays for Hull KR in the Super League. He has played for South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers in the National Rugby League (NRL). Vaivai has also played for Toulouse Olympique in the French Top League.

He has represented Tonga in international rugby league. Vaivai has won the Man of Steel Award in the 2019 NRL season. Vaivai was born on 9 January 1994 in Tonga. He is a cousin of fellow NRL player Sosaia Feki. He has a wife and two children. Vaivai is of Tongan and Samoan descent.

7. Bureta Faraimo

Bureta Faraimo Career

  • 2013– : United States
  • 2019– : United States 9s
  • 2014–16 : Parramatta Eels
  • 2018–21 : Hull F.C.
  • 2022– : Castleford Tigers

Bureta Faraimo is a wing player who has represented New Zealand at international level. She was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1990. Faraimo has played for the Southern Steel in the WNBL and the Melbourne Boomers in the WNBA.

Faraimo was a member of the New Zealand national basketball team that finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Faraimo has also played for the Brisbane Bullets and the Dallas Wings in the WNBA. Faraimo is 6 feet 0 inches tall and weighs 105 kilograms.

Faraimo is a hard worker and is constantly looking to improve her game. She has been with the Melbourne Boomers since the 2013 season. 

Faraimo is an experienced player, having played at international level for New Zealand. Bureta Faraimo was born on 8 April 1992 in Sydney, Australia.

Bureta is a rugby league footballer who plays for the Hull F.C. in the Super League. He has played for the Parramatta Eels and Castleford Tigers in the English Super League. Faraimo has represented the United States in international rugby league. Faraimo has also played for the Australian national team.

In 2018, Faraimo was the recipient of the prestigious Man of Steel Award. Faraimo is a hard-working player who is known for his strong defence. He is a popular player with the fans and is highly rated by the coaches. Faraimo is a talented player who has a bright future in the sport.

8. Corey Makelim

Corey Makelim Career

  • 2015– : United States
  • 2019– : United States 9s
  • 2016 : Mount Pritchard Mounties
  • 2017–18 : Wentworthville Magpies
  • 2018–20 : Sheffield Eagles

Corey Makelim is a fullback for the Mount Pritchard Mounties in the New South Wales Rugby League. Corey is a hardworking player who is always looking to make an impact on the field.

Corey has been a part of the Mounties for two seasons, and has helped lead the team to two consecutive premierships. Corey is a talented player who is capable of making big plays on the field.

Corey is a valuable member of the Mounties team, and is always looking to contribute to the team's success. Corey is a dedicated player who is always looking to improve his game. Corey is a popular player with his teammates, and is always willing to lend a helping hand.

Corey is a versatile player who is able to fill a number of roles on the field. Corey is a hardworking player who is always looking to improve his game.

9. Kristian Freed

Kristian Freed Career

  • 2013–18: United States
  • 2019–: United States 9s
  • Connecticut Wildcats
  • Sunshine Coast Falcons
  • White Plains Wombats
  • RC Lescure-Arthes XIII

Kristian Freed is a New Zealand rugby union player who plays at the five-eighth and hooker positions. Freed first played for the Auckland Blues in the ITM Cup, and has also represented New Zealand at Under-20 and Under-23 level.

Freed made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2009, and has since played for the Highlanders, Blues, Chiefs, and Hurricanes. In total, Freed has made 87 appearances for the seven Super Rugby teams he has represented. 

In the 2015 Super Rugby season, Freed was named the New Zealand Rugby Union player of the year.

This was recognition for his performances in the 2014 and 2015 Super Rugby seasons, in which he helped the Hurricanes to both their first and second title. 

Freed has also been a regular fixture in the All Blacks squad, making his debut in 2009. He has since played in 47 tests, scoring nine tries and making 19 conversions.

Freed is married to former All Black and current international netball player Hayley Hughes, and they have two children. Freed is a sports science graduate from the University of Otago, and is currently studying for a masters in sports science at the University of Auckland. 

Freed is a popular figure in New Zealand rugby, and is known for his hard work and high standards.

He is a regular ambassador for the sport, and has been involved with various charity work both in New Zealand and internationally. Freed is a popular choice for the All Blacks, and is seen as a key player for the future of the team. 

He is currently contracted to the Hurricanes until the end of the 2020 Super Rugby season. Freed is a versatile player, who can play in a variety of positions.

He is a strong runner, and has good ball control. Freed is also a good kicker, and is capable of scoring long-range tries.

10. Martwain Johnston

Martwain Johnston Career

  • 2011: Philadelphia Fight, Delaware Black Foxes
  • 2017 : United States

Martwain Johnston is a wing player for the Perth Scorchers in the Australian Big Bash League. Johnston made his debut for the Scorchers in the 2009–10 season and has since played 131 matches for the side.

He has also played for the Melbourne Stars and the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League. Johnston has also played for the West Indies in One Day Internationals. Johnston is a left-handed batsman and bowls right-arm off break.

He was named captain of the Scorchers for the 2017–18 season. Johnston was born in the Virgin Islands and has represented them in international cricket. 

He is married to Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua. Johnston was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 2017.

Martwain Johnston is a professional basketball player who plays for the Philadelphia Fight. Johnston was born in the US, but grew up in the UK. Johnston played college basketball at Delaware. 

Johnston signed with the Philadelphia Fight as a free agent in the 2018 season. Johnston has played in three NBA games, including one with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Johnston is a versatile player, able to play both guard positions. Johnston is a hard worker, and is always looking to improve his game. Johnston is a self-starter, and is willing to work hard for his team. Johnston is a team player, and is always looking to help his team win.

11. Michael Garvey

Michael Garvey Career

  • 2011–14 : United States

Michael Garvey is an American mixed martial artist who competes in the welterweight division. He is currently signed with the UFC. Garvey began competing in MMA in 2010 and has since compiled a record of 10 wins and 3 losses.

Garvey is a former American Kickboxing Academy student and amateur wrestler who holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Garvey's biggest win to date came in his Fight of the Night victory over Demian Maia at UFC 163. Garvey is currently ranked No.

7 in the world in the welterweight division. Garvey is married and has two children. Garvey is a devout Christian and has spoken about his faith in the media. Garvey is a member of the United States Army National Guard. Garvey is currently a coach at American Top Team.

Michael Garvey was born on October 5, 1987 in the United States. He played for the United States national team from 2011-2014. Garvey averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds per game during his career. He announced his retirement from professional basketball on February 10, 2017.

He currently works as an assistant coach for the Texas Longhorns. Garvey is married to his wife, Katelyn. They have two children. 

Michael Garvey is a former college basketball player who announced his retirement from professional basketball in February 2017. He currently works as an assistant coach for the Texas Longhorns.

12. Andrew Kneisly

Andrew Kneisly Career

  • Aston Bulls
  • Philadelphia Fight
  • 2010– : United States

Andrew Kneisly is a professional rugby league footballer who has played for the Aston Bulls since the 2003 season. Kneisly is a prop and lock and has played for New Zealand at under-19 and under-21 level.

Kneisly has been a regular player for the Bulls since 2003, making over 200 appearances. Kneisly has been named in the England squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, but did not make an appearance. Kneisly has also represented the British and Irish Lions in a trial match in 2005.

Kneisly has also played for the Leicester Tigers and the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the Super League. Kneisly has won the League Leaders' Award twice, in 2008 and 2009. 

Kneisly has also been named in the 2009 Super League Dream Team. Kneisly has retired from professional rugby league following the 2009 season.

13. Gabriel Farley

Gabriel Farley Career

  • 2020–21 : Austin Gilgronis
  • 2021 : Houston SaberCats
  • 2014 : United States U20s

Gabriel Farley is a 28-year-old rugby league player who currently plays for the Southampton Dragons in the USA. Gabriel has previously played for the Philadelphia Fight in the USA.

Gabriel is a powerful and fast centre who is also able to fill in at fullback and at wing. Gabriel has made a significant contribution to the Southampton Dragons over the past two seasons.

Gabriel is a hard-working and determined player who is always putting in a shift for his team. Gabriel is looking to continue his excellent form in the current season and help the Southampton Dragons reach the playoffs.

Gabriel is a popular and well-liked player within the rugby league community. Gabriel is a gifted player who is constantly improving his skills. Gabriel is a dedicated and hard-working player who is looking to improve his game even further.

14. David Niu

David Niu Career

  • 1999: United States
  • 1994–2004 : Glen Mills Bulls
  • 1993–03 : United States
  • 2009 : United States
  • 2011 : United States

David Niu is a rugby league footballer who has played for St. George Dragons and Villeneuve Leopards. Niu is of Tongan descent and played rugby league for the Australian Schoolboys team in 1987.

Niu made his first grade debut for St. George Dragons in 1990 and went on to play 19 games for the club over two seasons. Niu moved to the Melbourne-based Villeneuve Leopards in 1991 and played 15 games for the club.

Niu retired from rugby league in 1996 and has since pursued a career in real estate. Niu made a return to rugby league in 2007 and played for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the NSW Cup. Niu is the son of former rugby league player David Niu and brother of current player Paul Niu.

Niu was born in Sydney and has resided in Melbourne since retiring from rugby league. Niu is married and has two children.

Final Words

American rugby league has been a growing sport in the United States since the formation of the Association of American Rugby Leagues in 1984. American rugby league has seen some great players come and go, but there are a few players who have stood the test of time and have been the best in American rugby league.

Some of the best American rugby league players of all time include; Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Jarryd Hayne, Sam Burgess, and Jason Taumalolo.

Photo of author

John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn

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