For a man that only heard about Rugby League six years ago, Nick Newlin has certainly accomplished a fair bit within the sport.
In 2014, it started with Newlin getting an opportunity at the club he would eventually become heavily involved with both on and off the field.
“The [Atlanta] Rhinos came about in 2014 and I wasn’t playing any Rugby League, in fact I had only ever heard of Rugby League about two weeks before the first combine and initial tryouts for the team in May 2014.” Newlin revealed to Everything Rugby League.
“I started playing rugby union back in 2007 for the university I was attending in Wisconsin and then played a small amount when I was serving in the military from 2008-2012.
“Once my active duty time was completed I started playing again for local men’s clubs around Atlanta, mainly the Atlanta Renegades Rugby Union club.”
Two years after debuting for the Atlanta Rhinos, Newlin would also become the club’s president, taking care of behind the scenes jobs, while also captaining the team on the field.
“My current role is pretty all inclusive. I still play for the team, have held the team captain position since our inaugural season in 2014 and also I am the team President.
“My “behind the scenes” role is larger than my role on the field these days. That includes finding and signing sponsors each spring, locating fields and handling those contracts, recruiting players, often running training sessions, sorting out our travel for away games, and running all of our social media accounts.
“It’s become quite a lot and I will be looking to step down from my Captain role in the upcoming season and hopefully tasking some of the guys with some of the off the field work.”
During 2017, Newlin would lead his Rhinos to a USARL premiership as both the captain and President.
It’s safe to say that Newlin was elated, considering he is more engrossed with the club then anyone else.
“It was one of those moments that seemed like such a blur looking back. That season everything fell into place and we got everyone on the team to buy into what we wanted to accomplish and how we were going to do it.
“From my perspective, when that final whistle blew it was such a feeling of joy and relief. That season had a lot of hard work and it was exhausting to make sure everything off the field was handled and the best it could be, but to also make sure my performance on the field was the best it could be for the team and also for the lead up to selection into the RLWC team.”
The 32-year-old has also accomplished great things away from the Rhinos, including captaining the USA Hawks National team and representing the nation at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
“When the opportunity first came about for me in 2015 I was a bit awestruck and couldn’t believe I was pulling on a kit to represent my country.
“As that continued to escalate and I was named domestic Captain and then being selected for the RLWC2017 I realised what all of the hard work was for and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“Being able to defend my country in the military with 2 deployments to Afghanistan and then being able to represent my county in sport on the grandest stage is something that I will be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Running a Rugby League club in America can prove a challenging task and has been exactly that for Newlin.
However, he loves his role and understands the importance of what he and those who run USARL clubs are doing to grow the game in the country.
“In the USA, it’s simply doing it completely grassroots and basically with no funds. Everyone involved in RL in the USA does it from complete passion for the sport and because we want to see this sport succeed.
“It’s very tough to attract sponsors and sometimes even players. Rugby Union, especially the 7s game is becoming fairly popular here, but then when you tell people about another “code” of rugby they get completely confused. So, educating people about what they are missing out on and what they should want to be a part of, whether in the stands supporting, or on the field playing, is the hardest part.
“I love it, all of us that run the teams and do the hard work on the ground do, otherwise there wouldn’t be RL in the USA.”
When looking at his on field career, Newlin understands that his playing days are nearly over and a full time shift to his administration role will be necessary.
Although he is preparing to lace up the boots for one more season.
“You know, I think if we would have had a full time season in 2020, I may have decided to play my last season and move into a full time admin role, but with Covid-19 really affecting how much we are going to play on the field, if at all, that makes my decision quite easy to come back and play again in 2021.
“I’ll be turning 33 in August of this year, so one more year I can certainly get out of this body and I can’t wait to get back on the field in a Rhinos kit and hopefully one last ride in the USA jersey.”