An ultimate 13 of rugby league players born in Cumbria, including quintet of Super League stars

Ben Olawumi
Harvie Hill, James Donaldson, Morgan Knowles

From left to right: Super League stars Harvie Hill, James Donaldson & Morgan Knowles all feature in our ultimate Cumbria 13

Throughout the summer at Love Rugby League, we’re going to be taking a geographical tour of some of rugby league’s most famous towns and cities and compiling some dream line-ups comprising of active players.

Some places will unsurprisingly throw out star-studded sides with some of the best players in the world included. But some may surprise you about the quality of stars the area has produced.

So far in this feature series, we’ve taken a look at Halifax, WidnesWarringtonWigan, Huddersfield, Oldham, Bradford & St Helens.

Next up? The county of Cumbria, home to a trio of rugby league clubs across the Championship & League 1 – Barrow Raiders, Whitehaven & Workington Town.

Here’s our ultimate 13 of players born or raised in Cumbria…

1. Gregg McNally

Born in Whitehaven, McNally has had three separate stints with his hometown club as well as one with fellow Cumbrian outfit Barrow as a loanee in 2011. A 12-time Ireland international, the full-back has also represented Cumbria.

Having donned the shirts of seven different clubs, the 33-year-old is now back with Rochdale Hornets in League 1. Earlier this year, he surpassed the milestone of 300 club career appearances and – as above – 200 career tries, too. 111 tries came in 176 appearances for Leigh, then known as Centurions, who McNally spent eight seasons with in total across two separate stints.

2. Tee Ritson

Ritson was actually born in Thailand, but moved to Cumbria as a youngster and was raised in the town of Maryport. He started his career with Workington Town, but was swiftly picked up by Barrow, where his eye-catching performances earned him a move to Super League with St Helens.

28-year-old Ritson spent 2023 on loan with Saints before making his move a permanent one ahead of this season, and has now scored 105 tries in 158 career appearances, including his games out on loan and dual-registration. Having been raised in Maryport, the speedster is another who has represented Cumbria.

3. Rio Corkill

Rio Corkill
Rio Corkill – Picture Credit: Whitehaven RLFC

Young gun Corkill was born in Barrow, and represented his heritage as he donned a Nigeria shirt twice in 2022, featuring in wins against both Cameroon & Ghana. Earlier that year, he had made what would prove his only senior appearance for St Helens having come through the Super League giants’ academy, coming off the bench in a defeat to Wakefield Trinity.

The utility joined hometown club Barrow in 2023, and scored three tries in 13 appearances before making the move across Cumbria to fellow Championship club Whitehaven ahead of the current season. To date, he’s scored five tries in 15 appearances for the Marras, including one against Workington in February in the 1895 Cup.

4. Brett Carter

The first man on this list to achieve the ‘Cumbrian trinity’ is veteran Carter, who has never donned the shirt of a club outside of the county in his career. At 35, he’s made over 200 club career appearances – all coming between hometown club Barrow, Workington & Whitehaven.

A five-time Scotland international, Carter is currently in his third stint at Barrow, returning to Craven Park in 2022. It’s Workington where the vast majority of his appearances have come however, featuring in 143 games for Town between 2009 and 2016.

5. Ryan Shaw

Ryan Shaw
Ryan Shaw in action for Hull KR at Magic Weekend in 2019

Raiders team-mate Shaw takes our second wing spot, another who hails from Barrow. Joining his hometown club back in 2021, this is also his third stint at Craven Park having previously amassed 38 appearances across two loan spells – in 2012 & 2014. A product of Warrington’s academy, Shaw departed the Halliwell Jones Stadium without making a senior debut for the Wolves.

Since then though, he has donned the shirts of six different clubs throughout his career, including 106 appearances for Barrow. Leigh (then Centurions), Swinton Lions, London Broncos, Bradford Bulls & Hull KR are the other five, and the stalwart is quickly closing in on the milestone of 250 career appearances, just 13 off hitting that milestone now.

6. Brad Walker

Walker continues the trend of current Barrow stars donning the shirt of their hometown club with pride. Born in the town, the 26-year-old linked up with Paul Crarey’s side ahead of this season, with this the first time he’s played for a Cumbrian club.

The playmaker, who began his career with then-Super League outfit Widnes Vikings had made exactly 100 senior career appearances by the time he signed on the dotted line at Craven Park. He’s added another 15 on to that tally so far this term, scoring his first try for the Raiders against Toulouse Olympique in May.

7. Jamie Doran

Jamie Doran
Jamie Doran (ball in hand) in action for Whitehaven in 2024

Partnering him in the halves is Whitehaven-born Doran, another now proudly wearing the badge of his hometown club. The versatile 29-year-old has been with Haven since the start of last season, joining ahead of 2023 from fellow Cumbrian outfit Workington who he had captained.

Doran made 186 appearances for Town, joining them permanently in 2016 having spent the previous season on loan there from Wigan Warriors. Coming through the youth ranks with the Cherry & Whites, he managed two senior appearances in Super League. Both came in 2014, featuring in a derby against St Helens and a trip to Widnes.

8. Harvie Hill

The first current Super League player in this 13 is Wigan starlet Hill, who at 20 has won everything there is to win – featuring in the World Club Challenge triumph against Penrith Panthers earlier this year and more or less maintaining a spot in Matt Peet’s matchday squad ever since.

Born in Whitehaven and snapped up by Wigan as a youngster, Hill has never actually played at first-team level for a Cumbrian side. Making a senior debut for the Warriors in August 2022, the forward spent time on loan with both London & Toulouse last term, and looks to be a real star.

9. Jordan Johnstone

Jordan Johnstone
Jordan Johnstone in action for Widnes Vikings in 2024

Also from Whitehaven, versatile forward Johnstone made his senior debut for his hometown club back in 2015 having spent time in the Cumbria Regional Academy system and played junior rugby league for Kells. The 27-year-old was though quickly snapped up by then-Super League outfit Widnes, where he’s spent most of his career to date.

Having also appeared in the top flight for both Hull FC and Castleford Tigers (loan), he’s now just four appearances off a century for the Chemics. Johnstone has 165 career appearances on his CV, including three as a loanee for London in 2018, and is now in his second stint with Widnes having re-joined ahead of last season.

10. Brad Singleton

Salford Red Devils powerhouse Singleton hails from Barrow, and spent time with community club Barrow Island in his youth prior to joining Leeds Rhinos. He is yet to don a shirt for a Cumbrian club, but has now played for eight different clubs in his career – including loan and dual-registration stints with Dewsbury Rams, Wakefield, Hunslet & Featherstone Rovers.

A two-time Super League champion and two-time Challenge Cup winner, the 31-year-old – who has represented Cumbria – is fast approaching the milestone of 300 career appearances. Including his three games for Ireland at the 2017 World Cup, he now needs to make just 12 more appearances to reach that landmark number.

11. James Donaldson

James Donaldson Leeds Rhinos Alamy
James Donaldson in action for Leeds Rhinos in 2024

Ex-Leeds team-mate Donaldson – born in Whitehaven – remains with the Rhinos today, and isn’t too far behind Singleton in needing 28 more appearances to reach 300 in his career. The 32-year-old, who lifted the Challenge Cup with Leeds in 2020, has now donned the shirts of five different clubs.

Of those five, the Rhinos are the club he’s made the most appearances for (108), with Bradford (80) & Hull KR (79) a close second and third respectively. Elsewhere, he has four to his name for Dewsbury, made on dual-registration – from Bradford – in 2013 and a sole appearance for York. That also came on dual-registration, during his time with KR, in 2018.

12. Conor Fitzsimmons

And that leads us on nicely to his partner in the second-row in this 13, current York ace Fitzsimmons. Born in Workington, the 26-year-old began his career with Castleford and made two senior appearances for the Tigers, including one in Super League, in 2016 before moving on to Newcastle Thunder.

But having spent time with his hometown club as a loanee during his time contracted to Cas, Fitzsimmons returned to Workington on a permanent basis in 2020. Two years later as he bid farewell, he’d amassed a total of 72 appearances for Town, and is now almost at the half-century mark for York, too. His last appearance of last season was the 150th of his career.

13. Morgan Knowles

Morgan Knowles
St Helens’ Morgan Knowles in action in 2024

Rounding this side off is Barrow-born Knowles, who played junior rugby league for Barrow Island before he was signed by Saints aged 15. Now 27, the versatile forward has never donned the shirt of another club at senior level, not even as a loanee. Making his first-team debut back in May 2015, he has made over 200 appearances in the Red V and won everything there is to win.

On the international front, Knowles first opted to represent his heritage and featured four times for Wales, including three appearances in the 2017 World Cup. But England came calling for the first time in 2021, and Knowles has now made seven appearances for Shaun Wane’s side to take his overall international tally up to 11.