United States rugby league coach Terry Matterson says a nightmare ending will not detract from his side’s dream run at the Rugby League World Cup.
Matterson admitted to feeling relief when the full-time siren sounded in Saturday’s painful 62-0 quarter-final loss to Australia in Wrexham.
But the coach says he could not be more proud of a side which defied all odds to reach the last eight and he will always hold the unexpected experience close to his heart.
“There’s a bit of relief that that game is over,” Matterson said after watching the Kangaroos run in 12 unanswered tries at Racecourse Stadium.
“They are a wonderful side we played against and I’m no less proud of these guys for what they’ve done.
“We’re focusing on the campaign and making the quarter-finals .
“We won’t dwell too much on what happened today. It’s an experience for the guys.
“What we’ve done over the last four weeks has been very special … and this group of people I’ll always remember and will always have a very strong bond with.”
North Queensland assistant Matterson guided the tournament’s 500-1 outsiders to the last eight after accepting a last-minute SOS to coach the side.
He did not even know all of his players’ names when he started in the role, let alone their abilities.
Aside from a handful of players with NRL or Super League experience, the squad featured a host of amateurs and both the staff and playing groups weren’t paid a cent.
Skipper Joseph Paulo, one of the players of the tournament, said he hoped the exposure gained from group stage wins over Cook Islands and Wales would help many players in getting professional contracts.
“These boys, over this time, have got the attention they deserve,” the Parramatta utility said.
The future of US rugby league remains unclear but Matterson says the team’s success can only help.
Media exposure during the tournament included a mention in the New York Times.
“It’s such a big market over there and if we can just get a really small piece of that market, it’d be unreal,” said Matterson, who said he had not thought about whether he’d like to continue coaching the side.