By Brian Lowe, Date 2/12/15

As time ticks down towards the start of the all-important Rugby League World Cup Americas Region Qualifiers, the USA has been forced to make a last minute change to its roster due to a late withdrawal of a key player.

Hooker Tui Samoa has pulled out of the USA’s RLWCQ campaign because of the sudden passing of a close family member.

He will be replaced in the squad by Corey Makelim of the Wentworthville Rugby League Club in New South Wales (Australia).

Samoa had just come off an MVP season with the Young Cherrypickers, a Group 9 club in New South Wales, and was tipped to bring that stellar form into the Qualifying series.

Samoa, who originally hails from American Samoa, was one of the standout players for the USA Tomahawks in their run to the quarterfinals at the last World Cup in the UK.

His dynamic style saw him get on the scoresheet right off the bat against the Cook Islands in the USA’s first ever RLWC match and he went on from there to turn in some notable performances.

Prior to joining the Cherrypickers, Samoa had played several seasons with the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Intrust Super Cup in Queensland, a feeder competition to the NRL.

His replacement, Corey Makelim, is a fullback with the Wentworthville Magpies in the VB New South Wales Cup competition.

The USARL says Makelim was recommended some time ago to be considered for selection as a heritage player and was on a standby list with other recommended heritage players.

The USA’s governing body says it wanted to cap the number of heritage players, so they were not selected, and it did not expect there to be any changes after all had confirmed.

Makelim joins Magpies’ teammates Danny and Steve Howard on the USA Hawks team.