Ex-Townsville junior earns his Stars and Stripes
FORMER Centrals Tigers junior and USA Hawks utility Sam Tochterman will make his Rugby League World Cup debut in the city where it all began.
Tochterman, who has been named in USA's team for Saturday night's clash against Fiji at 1300SMILES Stadium, played his first games of footy for Centrals as an under-7s player.
Qualifying for team USA through his mother, Tochterman spent two years in Townsville while his father was based in the city with the Australian Defence Force.
He attended Annandale State School and showed promise during his early footy days at Centrals, where former World Cup player and Australian Test great Gorden Tallis also played his first games.
"It's a bit funny to think I was once playing for Centrals, and now I'll be playing here for the USA," Tochterman said.
"I got to drive past the old primary school the other day, and it brought back some memories.
"My dad and I were only here for about two years when he was with the Army, but it's a nice place and it's where I started playing rugby league."
Tochterman and his father moved back to Brisbane in 2003 and has remained there since, working his way up to the statewide FOGs Under-20s competition before playing for Queensland Cup clubs Norths Devils and Tweed Heads.
Tochterman, 22, made his Q Cup debut last year and became a regular inclusion in Tweed's Q Cup side.
"Growing up I was never in a club system like NYC," he said.
"I just had to work my way through the ranks, and then to get named in the World Cup qualifiers in 2015 was a big step, because I was 20 years old.
"Then two years later I got named in World Cup team, so it's been quite a ride."
He may have spent his life in Queensland, but Tochterman says his blood will be a mix of red, white and blue on game day.
"My grandfather was born in Brooklyn and flew over here when he was 23, and he still goes back and forth still because all my family is still in America," he said.
"I've been there a few times, so there's a strong connection."
Tochterman will clash head-on with some of rugby league's toughest hitters on Saturday night, with Fiji fielding the likes of former Cowboys enforcer Ashton Sims, his brother Korbin and rising Panthers forward Viliame Kikau.
Not to mention NRL superstar Jarrdy Hayne.
"It will be a good challenge for us," Tochterman said.
"Just from seeing the names in their team, we know it's going to be tough.
"But we're actually really looking forward to it and getting our World Cup off to a good start."
Tochterman is also putting out a call to his old Centrals Tigers coach.
"I actually can't remember his name - I'll have to ask my parents - but hopefully I can connect with him before we leave," he said.