Written by Stuart McLennan
Photo by N. Dumoulin
The Atlanta Rhinos have demonstrated a piece of shrewd recruitment by signing Samoa international Pita Godinet as the club prepares to enter into the newly formed North American Rugby League (NARL).
With the first ever competition match to be played on June 19, and teams likely to be mostly filled with inexperienced players from rugby union and other sports, Atlanta will benefit from an experienced hand that can guide them around the field and be a mentor to his teammates.
Godinet, with 29 NRL, 45 Super League and 15 International matches under his belt, has the ability to provide a superior passing and kicking game from either hooker or or halfback to wreak havoc on opposition teams in the fledgling competition.
“I see myself guiding the team around and with my experience I am more than happy to mentor and help the players in America,” Godinet told Everything Rugby League.
The 33 year old will play at Atlanta under Nick Newlin, who captained the USA in international matches and long term Rhinos coach Jordan Smedley who turned out for the Yass Magpies in the Canberra Raiders Cup in Australia some years ago.
Godinet is currently plying his trade with Villeneuve in the French Elite 1 competition, The connection to Atlanta Rhinos came about through a teammate in France.
“I currently play with Eddy Pettybourne who is a USA international player and when he signed to Brooklyn Kings, he reached out to a few clubs, and Nick Newlin (Atlanta owner) replied and was interested.”
He will be joined at the club by prop John Talisa who is playing in the French Elite 1 competition for Lezignan.
Godinet’s date of arrival in the USA is yet to be confirmed as he still has playing commitments with Villeneuve who are currently placed sixth on the competition ladder.
“It (French Elite 1) has been a good experience and the level of rugby league is getting better and better, and the competition is getting tougher every year as clubs sign quality players each year.”
The first NARL set is yet to be completed however Godinet is optimistic about where the competition could land.
“I think it is going to be huge for the future of American Rugby League. The NARL could potentially build themselves to be like the NRL and UK Super League.”
Atlanta Rhinos will play their first NARL match in the East Conference against Boston 13s, who will be led by former Wales Captain Peter Lupton, in Brooklyn on June 19.
The NARL recently announced the West Conference competition will be postponed until 2022.
Pita Godinet made his NRL debut for the New Zealand Warriors in 2011 and subsequently played for Wakefield Trinity (Super League), Manly Warringah (NRL), Wests Tigers (NRL) and Villeneuve (French Elite 1).