Ever since Adrian Morley got sent off inside 15 seconds in a Test match against Australia we’ve taken notice of English players in the NRL.
Granted, Morley had already won a Premiership by then and Martin Offiah had also enjoyed success with the Dragons in the early 90s, but that was the moment where English players started to truly stand out.
Now they’re everywhere in the NRL, as clubs in Australia look for a recruitment difference, and English players look to test themselves against the best. In this weekly column, we give you a quick round-up of how the current crop fared.
Sharks v Storm
Chris Heighington made an immediate impact when he entered the fray with his side trailing 12-0 to Melbourne on Thursday night. While it wasn’t enough to help his side win, it did prove how valuable Heighington’s short stints are for their ability to change the momentum of the game.
His game is characterised by short energetic bursts – running with little respect for his body and rushing out of the line looking for a shot with the same lack of respect for opponent’s bodies.
In his 26 minutes, Heighington had 12 tackles, two tackle busts, an offload and 116 running metres.
Broncos v Rabbitohs
All three Burgess boys came to play on Friday night as the Rabbitohs narrowly lost to Brisbane.
It’s not surprising for Sam to put in a good turn, but to have both twins at their best is. Especially given their tendency to either consistently make errors, get sin-binned or get hooked.
Tom and George both put in high-energy 30 minutes stints. Tom had 89 metres in his first 22 minutes early in the first half, and George averaged over 10 metres a run for his first six efforts.
Their impact on the game will encourage coach, Michael Maguire, as the Bunnies enter the second major bye round and look to take advantage of weakened opponents, while they remain relatively unaffected.
Sam was awesome. Scoring a try, breaking five tackles and making 36 of his own. He was inches away from another try and the clear best of the Brits this week.
Titans v Warriors
Joe Greenwood made the comment during the week that it’s time to show more of his attacking game after making a solid start to his NRL career, but largely contributing only at the defensive end.
He did so too, setting up an early line break for Dale Copley that led to a Kane Elgey try.
Unfortunately it didn’t last for much longer as his Titans side, also featuring English representative, Chris McQueen, lost badly to the Warriors.
Greenwood finished with 27 tackles, a couple of offloads and no errors, while McQueen set up a Copley try and was also error free in his 45 minutes.
The Titans season looks over – with just four wins they’ll miss the eight. Hardly unexpected after the damaging injuries they’ve endured, but a shame after hoping the signings of Peats, Hurrell, Hayne, Wallace and Procter at the back end of last year would bring them some success.
Panthers v Raiders
The Raiders butchered two competition points against the Raiders in their Sunday afternoon match up.
Josh Hodgson’s side conceded two tries in the final three minutes (on the back of a forced Joey Leilua pass and some ordinary defence) to lose in soul crushing fashion.
Elliot Whitehead was one of the Raiders’ best. He set up a try and was busy on defence with 42 tackles. His destructive right edge partner, Isaac Rapana, was influential again scoring a try and busting ten tackles. That makes it tricky for Whitehead to be a threat with the ball as his role is to get Rapana early ball.
Hodgson was good too. He ran more than he has been, beating two tackles, and was busy with 38 tackles.
The Raiders have a difficult task of getting back into the top eight with games against the Storm, Cowboys, Broncos and Dragons over the coming weeks.
Dragons v Bulldogs
James Graham finally got through a game after missing last week and failing to finish his previous two games with a shoulder injury.
Graham was solid if not spectacular, playing completely error-free football in his 57 minutes. He made all of his 25 tackles and ran for a commendable 153 metres in his side’s comfortable win.
His opponent’s captain, Gareth Widdop, came down to earth after last week’s heroics. Widdop struggled behind a pack that was starved of possession and regularly on the back foot. Widdop’s early penalty was his side’s only points.
In other Brit news
Joe Wardle was a late scratching from the Newcastle Knights side. The Knights haven’t given an indication as to the injury or the length of time he’ll be out for.