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 Cowboys
Chris Heighington returned after missing last week’s match against the Dragons to start at prop for the Sharks in their win over the Cowboys, though lasted only 29 minutes in two short stints on the field. In that time, he managed a very respectable 138m including a line break, ultimately helping his side overrun the Cowboys in the second-half.
Titans v Sea-Eagles
No-one was surprised during the week when the Titans announced two more serious injuries within their squad. The injury ravaged Gold Coast side (who appear to have chosen to replace their muscle and bone with glass in the off-season in a curious strategic decision) added Ryan Simpkins (ACL) and Englishman Dan Sargnison (dislocated shoulder) to their long-term casualty ward.
It’s a bitter blow for Sarginson, whose first season in the NRL has been completely ruined by injury.
The Titans still had two England representatives in their 17 during the 30-10 loss. Joe Greenwood was one of the Titans’ best with 29 tackles, two offloads and 104m. Chris McQueen on the other hand offered little in attack, and his 34 tackles were partly offset with three bad misses.
Eels v Raiders
The Canberra Raiders finally got back on the right side of the ledger and broke their three-game losing streak with a 22-16 win over the Eels.
Captain Josh Hodgson admitted (correctly and honourably) during the week that his form was a big reason for the Raiders’ struggles. He bounced back with a better performance here, putting on a crucial try for Joey Leilua early and making 34 tackles. He did however give away three penalties, and continues to get caught in possession too often in the opposition’s twenty.
Elliot Whitehead had his hands full trying to contain Michael Jennings and Semi Radradra all night. He didn’t always manage it and missed five tackles throughout – too many for a back-rower.
Knights v Panthers
A Newcastle Knights side featuring Joe Wardle dominated the first half against the Panthers before suffering the same second half fate that the Warriors did the week prior. Wardle almost had the embarrassment of making more tackles (26) than metres gained (33). While the Knights sent a lot of action towards Brock Lamb and Sioni Mata’utia on the left-hand side, Wardle needs to do more to prove he’s more use than a chocolate teapot.
Bulldogs v Roosters
James Graham’s greatest contribution to this match was a slanging match with David Klemmer, in which it appeared Klemmer couldn’t understand a word the Lancastrian said. This came shortly after Graham was injured, so we’ll put it down to frustration. Hopefully, Graham isn’t seriously injured. For the record, Graham had just 23 tackles and 107 running metres in 45 minutes.
Rabbitohs v Storm
A Burgess made a mistake with his first touch of the ball. It wasn’t Tom.
Sam recovered from the early mistake (and made a few more later). But he was the standout forward in the game. He posted huge numbers: 42 tackles, five tackle breaks, three offloads and 183m, yet still featured on the losing side as Melbourne ran out winners by 14-6.
Running strongly for over 100m for the fourth consecutive game, Tom Burgess, was efficient rather than effective. He needs a little more impetus at the line to truly bend it and make some decent post contact metres – like someone his size should.