Brits Down Under: Williams shines on debut, Whitehead the workhorse and Watkins impressive in defeat

The NRL is back so we have taken a look at how the British contingent got on in round one. 

George Williams

There would have been plenty of eyes on the 25-year-old as took to the field for his first ever game in the NRL for Canberra. Alongside his fellow British cohorts in Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead, the former Wigan man did not disappoint and put together an impressive showing in his debut outing for the Green Machine. In a dominant first round win for Ricky Stuart’s men, the England number seven chalked up 62 metres to go alongside two line breaks, five tackle busts and 27 tackles.

Williams found himself steaming towards the try-line only to be thwarted by a solid piece of Gold Coast defensive play that forced a knock on. Only time will tell as to how the scrum half settles into the Australian game but if this game was anything to go by then we can expect brighter days ahead.

James Graham

It was not to be the best of starts for Graham and his St George Illawarra side as they fell victim to an inspired Wests Tigers side and a vintage performance from Benji Marshall. The Dragons started off brightly and led 14-8 before Marshall turned back the clock to help his side to a 24-14 win.

Graham put in another hard-working gritty display, something that has just been all too familiar a sight when it comes to the barnstorming forward. A total of 35 tackles was the third most by any player for Paul McGregor’s side and the England international was also able to rack up 64 run metres. Despite the agonising loss, there was still bright moments in the first 45 minutes for the Dragons and if the NRL season continues to go ahead then they can certainly look to build on that over the course of the year and develop some form of consistency.

Tom Burgess

Without brothers Sam and George alongside him and a now surrounded by a less experienced forward pack, the emphasis was on the 28-year-old to lead from the front for South Sydney. Even though they did not have it their own way for most of the game either, Souths still managed to find a way to come away with the spoils in a 22-18 win over Cronulla, with the front-rower showcasing his hard running tendencies.

The Burgess twin put together the second most metres gained by a Rabbitohs player with 120 to go with 18 tackles.

Elliott Whitehead

It may be a new season but the 30-year-old was just as solid and dependable as ever during the Raiders’ 24-6 win over the Titans. The former Bradford and Catalans star was once again a workhorse in the back-row and he topped it off with a try after latching on to a Emre Guler’s pass in the 65th minute to take the game away from Gold Coast.

Overall, Whitehead racked up 90 metres from 10 runs, two line breaks, three tackle busts as well as putting together another solid defensive display with 20 tackles to his name.

Kallum Watkins

The 29-year-old joined Gold Coast during last season and in the six appearances he made, it is fair to say we did not see the best of the former Leeds centre as he found himself dropped from the squad altogether.

However, a new season looms as Watkins found himself in the starting 13 come round one and although the Raiders proved too strong for the Titans, he still showed exactly what he can be capable of as he recorded the second most metres by a Gold Coast player with 132 as well as recording 50 metres post contact and three tackles busts. All that remains to be seen now is whether the England international can follow on from this display and maybe start to inspire Justin Holbrook’s side on more than the one occasion.

Josh Hodgson

The dynamic dummy half picked up right where he left off from last year and was up to his old tricks once again in Canberra’s win over Gold Coast.

Hodgson made 39 tackles as well a notching a try assist. The 30-year-old continues to be an integral cog in the Green Machine set up and his future displays and chemistry with countryman Williams will no doubt be crucial as the season goes on.

And the rest

The Canberra duo of John Bateman and Ryan Sutton remained on the sidelines for round one as Bateman overcomes shoulder surgery while Sutton faced a suspension.

There was no sign of Roosters’ winger Ryan Hall either as he looks to recover from an injury and force himself into the Sydney line-up once more.

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, James Graham, George Williams and all the others are getting on Down Under.

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About Zach Holland 295 Articles
Love Rugby League writer.

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