With today being the eve of International Origin 2013, we at Love Rugby League have picked six of the best overseas players to have graced Super League since its inception in 1996.
This article is not a definitive list. It is merely a tribute to some of the greatest players Super League fans have had the pleasure of watching over the years.
The Bulls were one of the most successful teams in that era and Hunter-Paul was at the heart of it all. He captained Bradford at scrum-half in the 1996 Challenge Cup final, being awarded the Lance Todd Trophy for man-of-the-match. The Kiwi also led the side to a “Treble” in 2003 and then victory against Australian side Penrith Panthers in the 2004 World Club Challenge.
In his first three seasons, Lam was selected in the Super League Dream Team and in 2002 he won the Players’ Player of the Year and RLWA Player of the Year awards. In that same season the half-back produced a sublime, try-scoring performance in the Warriors’ Challenge Cup final victory over rivals St Helens. When Lam left Super League in 2004 he had amassed a total of 119 appearances and scored 44 tries.
Nicknamed ‘The Volcano’ Vainikolo was unstoppable at times and he once scored six tries in a game against Hull FC in 2005.
Vainikolo was a promising 100 metre runner in his youth, but due to his 17 stone frame he opted for rugby league as a profession. He was almost the perfect winger with a deadly mix of pace and power that gave opposition players nightmares. During his time at Bradford Bulls in between 2002 and 2007 he scored an amazing 143 tries in 148 matches, making it into the Super League Dream Team on two occasions.
Lyon was only at St Helens for two years but his consistent performances and never-say-die attitude made him a firm favourite with the Saints fans.
In 2005 the goal-kicking centre was disillusioned with the sport of rugby league and was considering retirement until Saints coach Ian Millward offered him the chance to play in Super League. He made an immediate impact and soon became one of the most sought after talents in the game. In 2007 he moved back to Australia with Manly Sea Eagles, where he is still a key player at the age of 31.
Johns is considered to be one of the most talented rugby league players of all time, and although he only made three appearances for Warrington Wolves in 2005, he has to be recognised as one of the greatest overseas imports Super League has ever had.
In a truly glittering career ‘Joey’ won everything he could possibly win, including many personal awards. This includes being named as the eighth ‘immortal’ of rugby league in 2008 – the highest accolade a player can receive. Johns’ incisive running and near-perfect kicking game meant that when he retired due to injury in 2007 he had managed to score over 2500 points.
The mercurial Australian showed no signs of easing up though, and his all round game is still as solid as ever. ‘Beaver’ is perhaps most famous for scoring tries (his career total currently stands at 270) but during his time with Bradford Bulls, and nowadays the Catalan Dragons, he has also been able to showcase his considerable defensive talents. In 2012 he became the oldest player in Super League history and he will finally retire at the end of the 2013 campaign.