USA Hawks backrower Joe Eichner has re-signed with Intrust Super Cup team the Northern Pride for the 2021 season.
Due to COVID-19, however, the 2020 season did not happen and Eichner has had to return to the United States.
He must reapply for his visa from outside of Australia and that whole process could take some time.
“Yeah, it’s been quite the hassle,” Eichner told Rugby League Planet.
“The team manager moved on and so there was no one there to sort it unfortunately. The coach reluctantly agreed to re-sign me on the basis I would be back at the beginning of the year, but it’s proving to be quite difficult.
“I’m reaching out to an immigration lawyer (in Cairns) currently seeing if I can expedite the process.”
The Pride played just one game in March before the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) made the decision to cancel the 2020 season in the interests of player safety in the wake of the global pandemic.
Eichner has remained in Cairns, in Far North Queensland, since then to continue his employment obligations outside of football, but his visa was nearing its expiration date, so he had no choice but to return to the US.
The Hawks forward this week flew back to his native Florida.
“I’m back in my hometown of Geneva, Florida,” he said.
“Helping my parents out on the family farm and I think I’m going to pick up some laboring work with my brother while I’m here till things get sorted.”
Eichner has been playing rugby league in Australia since 2018. He started with the Junee Diesels in the New South Wales Group 9 division before moving north to Queensland in 2019 and linking up with the Cairns Brothers RLFC, a feeder club to the Northern Pride, in the Cairns and District competition.
It didn’t take long for him to be given a shot to try out with the Pride and he had been a regular starter on their team before this season was shelved.
He is the first American-born player to earn a starting spot on an Intrust Super Cup team in a regular season.
Eichner has also been a regular fixture in the American national team since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) after getting his first start with the Hawks a year earlier.
He began his rugby football playing career in 2009 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville where he played rugby union before signing on with the Jacksonville Axemen in the USA Rugby League (USARL) national clubs competition.
Eichner was part of the Axemen team that clinched its second USARL national championship in 2012.