Every British-born player to have graced the NRL since inaugural 1998 season

Drew Darbyshire
Gareth Ellis, James Graham, Sam Burgess NRL Alamy

British forwards Gareth Ellis, James Graham and Sam Burgess excelled in the NRL - Alamy

There’s a strong British contingent who have played in the NRL over the years, with more players than you probably realise having headed Down Under.

According to our calculations, there are 43 British-born players to have graced the NRL since the competition was founded back in 1998.

There could be a few more names added to this list in 2024, with Will Pryce, Kai Pearce-Paul (both Newcastle Knights), Lewis Murphy, Alex Young (both Sydney Roosters) and Morgan Smithies (Canberra Raiders) making the big moves to Australia.

In the list below, we’ve included every British-born player to have played in the NRL since 1998…

John Bateman

The England international has made more than 50 appearances in the NRL across two spells for Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers. He was named the Dally M Second Rower of the Year in his first season with Canberra.

George Burgess

The Dewsbury-born prop made 149 appearances for South Sydney Rabbitohs between 2012 and 2019, winning the Premiership in 2014. He also had a short spell with St George Illawarra Dragons in 2022 following a stint in Super League with Wigan.

Joe Burgess

The Salford winger spent the 2016 campaign in the NRL, making 11 appearances for Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs between two stints with hometown club Wigan.

Luke Burgess

The Yorkshireman spent six years in the NRL between 2011 and 2014, playing more than 70 games for the Rabbitohs and Manly Sea Eagles.

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess South Sydney Rabbitohs Alamy

The now Warrington head coach is one of the greatest British players to grace the NRL. He played almost 200 games for the Rabbitohs across a decade, winning the 2014 Premiership.

Tom Burgess

The powerhouse prop has made more than 200 appearances for the Rabbitohs since 2014. Burgess won the Grand Final alongside his brothers Sam and George in 2014.

Mike Cooper

The Warrington-born front-rower spent three seasons in the NRL with St George Illawarra Dragons between 2014 and 2016, making 69 appearances before returning to hometown club Warrington.

Greg Eden

The speedster had two years with Brisbane Broncos between 2015 and 2016, scoring two tries in seven NRL matches.

Mark Edmondson

The former St Helens and Salford forward had a season with Sydney Roosters in 2006, playing two games in the NRL.

Gareth Ellis

Gareth Ellis Wests Tigers Alamy

The Great Britain and England international is one of the greatest British players to play in the NRL. Ellis made 75 appearances for the Tigers between 2009 and 2012, being named the club’s Player of the Year three reasons in a row.

Herbie Farnworth

The former Manchester United schoolboy was born and raised in Burnley before moving to Australia at the age of 17 to focus on his rugby league dream. Farnworth, who played for England in the delayed 2021 World Cup, played 79 games for Brisbane Broncos and has now moved to the Dolphins ahead of 2024.

Mark Flanagan

The Wigan academy product spent two seasons in the NRL between 2010 and 2011, playing 27 games for Wests Tigers.

Oliver Gildart

The Great Britain and England international had an 18-month stint in the NRL, making 10 appearances for Wests Tigers, Sydney Roosters and the Dolphins before returning to Super League.

James Graham

James Graham Canterbury Bulldogs Alamy

One of the best players Britain has produced in the modern era. The St Helens legend made almost 200 appearances in the NRL for Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons between 2012 and 2020, playing in the Grand Final against the Burgess boys in 2014.

Joe Greenwood

The former England international had two seasons in the NRL with Gold Coast Titans between 2017 and 2018, playing 22 games.

Ryan Hall

The Hull KR winger spent two years with Sydney Roosters between 2019 and 2020, making 11 appearances for Trent Robinson’s side.

Zak Hardaker

The Yorkshireman enjoyed a short spell in the NRL with Penrith Panthers in 2016, playing 11 games whilst on loan from Leeds Rhinos.

James Hasson

The front-rower was born in London before moving to Sydney with his family at a young age. He played 39 games for Manly Sea Eagles between 2013 and 2015 before going on to have spells with Salford and Wakefield in Super League.

Hasson is of Irish heritage, representing Ireland in the 2013, 2017 and 2021 World Cups.

Josh Hodgson

Josh Hodgson Canberra Raiders Alamy

The former Hull FC and Hull KR hooker spent nine seasons in the NRL in total, with eight of those coming for Canberra Raiders. He represented Parramatta Eels in the final season of his career before retiring on medical grounds.

Harvey Howard

The Great Britain and England international spent the 2000 campaign with Brisbane, helping the Broncos win the Premiership.

Howard, who played for Widnes, Leeds, Bradford, Wigan and Hull KR in England, also enjoyed spells with Eastern Suburbs and Western Suburbs pre-NRL era.

Kruise Leeming

The Challenge Cup winner was born in Eswatini – then known as Swaziland – before moving to England when he was three years of age, where he was raised in the West Yorkshire town of Halifax.

We’ve included him in this feature because he’s spent 25 years of his life living in England.

Leeming left Leeds Rhinos in the early rounds of the 2023 campaign, resulting in a move to the Gold Coast Titans, where he played 10 NRL games before landing a four-year deal with Wigan.

Keith Mason

The Dewsbury-born prop made the move over to the NRL in 2002, where he spent two seasons with Melbourne Storm.

Mason made more than 250 appearances in Super League for Wakefield, St Helens, Huddersfield and Castleford, starting in the front-row in Saints’ 2004 Challenge Cup final win over Wigan in Cardiff.

Richie Mathers

The former England international enjoyed a season in the NRL with Gold Coast Titans in 2007, playing six games for the club before returning to Super League.

Tyrone McCarthy

The Warringtonian spent two seasons in the NRL with St George Illawarra Dragons between 2016 and 2017, making two first-grade appearances as well as playing for Illawarra in the New South Wales Cup.

McCarthy, who represented his Irish heritage on the international stage 17 times including two World Cups, helped Northern Pride win the Queensland Cup in 2014.

Scott Moore

The St Helens-born hooker, who was named in the 2009 Super League Dream Team, had a season in the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys in 2013.

Moore made more than 200 appearances in England for St Helens, Widnes, Huddersfield, London, Castleford, Wakefield, Bradford, Rochdale and Swinton.

Adrian Morley

Morley, who made 53 appearances for Great Britain and England, enjoyed six successful seasons in the NRL with Sydney Roosters between 2001 and 2006. The Salfordian made 114 appearances for the Roosters, winning the Premiership in 2002.

Lee Mossop

The Cumbrian prop did two seasons with Parramatta Eels between 2014 and 2015 but had a tough time with injuries, making three first-grade appearances before returning to Wigan.

Jack Reed

Jack Reed Brisbane Broncos Alamy

The Keighley-born centre emigrated to Australia with his parents when he was two. Reed spent six seasons with Brisbane, scoring 49 tries in 128 games for the Broncos before a shoulder injury forced him into retirement in 2016. He won five caps for England.

Ian Roberts

Roberts was born in London before his family emigrated to Australia when he was two. He played for North Queensland Cowboys in the inaugural NRL season in 1998, having played for South Sydney, Wigan and Manly before that.

Roberts represented Australia on the international stage as well as New South Wales in the State of Origin arena.

Harry Rushton

The Blackpool-born forward had two seasons in the NRL with Canberra Raiders between 2021 and 2022, playing three first team games. He represented his Irish heritage at the delayed 2021 World Cup.

Dan Sarginson

The two-time Super League Grand Final winner spent two seasons at Gold Coast Titans between 2017 and 2018, making six first-grade appearances before returning to Wigan.

Ian Sibbit

The Wigan-born forward played alongside the aforementioned Mason for Melbourne Storm in 2002.

Sibbit, who could play back-row or centre, made 234 appearances in Super League for Warrington, Salford and Bradford.

Ryan Sutton

The English foward has been in the NRL since making the move over from hometown club Wigan in 2019. He spent four seasons with Canberra Raiders and is currently playing for Canterbury Bulldogs.

Jordan Tansey

The Leeds-born back spent a season with Sydney Roosters in 2009 following a blistering start to his career with the Rhinos. Tansey made seven appearances for the Roosters before heading back to Super League with Hull FC.

Luke Thompson

The Great Britain and England prop spent for seasons in the NRL between 2020 and 2023, making 42 appearances for Canterbury Bulldogs. He has penned a four-year deal with Wigan from 2024.

Chris Thorman

The Geordie went over to the NRL in 2004, playing at Parramatta Eels alongside the likes of Fuifui Moimoi and Nathan Hindmarsh. Thorman made 11 appearances that season before returning to England.

Sam Tomkins

Sam Tomkins New Zealand Warriors Alamy

The two-time Man of Steel winner moved to the New Zealand Warriors for a world record transfer fee in 2013. Tomkins spent two seasons in the NRL between 2014 and 2015, scoring 14 tries in 37 games before returning to Wigan.

Joe Wardle

The Scotland international enjoyed a season Down Under in 2017, where he would play 17 games for Newcastle Knights.

Kallum Watkins

The Leeds legend had a six-month spell in the NRL between 2019 and 2020, playing eight games in total for Gold Coast Titans before returning to England for family reasons.

Elliott Whitehead

The Bradfordian will enter his ninth season with Canberra in 2024. England star Whitehead has made almost 200 appearances for the Raiders since arriving ahead of the 2016 campaign from Catalans Dragons.

Sam Walker

The Sydney Roosters half-back was actually born in Leeds whilst his dad Ben was playing for the Rhinos back in 2002 – but it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be representing his birth nation, with him considering himself as a proud Aussie and wanting to make the Kangaroos side one day.

Gareth Widdop

Gareth Widdop St George Illawarra Dragons Alamy

Widdop was born and raised in Halifax before moving to Melbourne with his family when he was 12.

The Great Britain and England international half-back enjoyed 10 seasons in the NRL with Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons, winning the Premiership with the Storm in 2012 and the World Club Challenge the following year.

George Williams

The England captain spent 18 months Down Under between 2020 and 2021, scoring 10 tries in 32 games for Canberra Raiders, where he played alongside his fellow countrymen Hodgson, Bateman, Whitehead and Sutton.

Dom Young

The towering England winger went over to the NRL after making just a couple of first team appearances for Huddersfield. Young scored 43 tries in 51 games for Newcastle Knights over three seasons, and will be a Sydney Rooster in 2024.

We will have another feature coming soon looking at the overseas-born players to have represented the Great British and Irish Lions, England, Wales and Scotland on the international stage.

QUIZ: Can you name every England international to have played in the NRL this year?