Newcastle Knights want to emulate Canberra’s success with English imports

Drew Darbyshire
Dom Young and Kai Pearce-Paul England Newcastle Knights News Images

Dom Young (left) and Kai Pearce-Paul (right) in action for England at the World Cup | Photo: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

Newcastle Knights are building a team based around England’s hottest talent in the hope that it can lead them to NRL glory further down the line.

That’s according to new signing Jackson Hastings, who was a popular figure during his time in England with Salford and Wigan.

The Knights have already unearthed a gem in towering winger Dom Young, who scored 18 tries in 26 appearances since bursting onto the NRL scene.

And ready for a shot at full-back is Bailey Hodgson, the nephew of seasoned NRL hooker Josh.

Joining the Knights in 2024 are Will Pryce and Kai Pearce-Paul, two of the most promising players in the English game.

Newcastle Knights are hoping to bear the fruits that Canberra did a couple of years ago, when the likes of Josh Hodgson, John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, George Williams and Ryan Sutton helped the Raiders climb the NRL ladder.

Speaking of their English talents on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast, Hastings said: “Will is just scratching the surface of what he can be.

“Super League put a couple of highlights of him on Instagram and the amount of tries he scored from 40 or 50 yards with his good footwork and speed – it’s like looking in the mirror watching Leon (Pryce) play back in the day. He’s an unbelievable talent.

“He will definitely fit in somewhere. You don’t go out of your way to get an English player early in their career at 18 or 19 to just not play. He will definitely be in our team somewhere I guess and then you’ve got Kai Pearce-Paul who is another young, outstanding English talent who is going to be a massive part of our side too.

“I don’t know this for a fact but the Knights are going down the route of what Canberra did and what made them so successful too”

“We are getting them really young and if we can get a core group of English people there, then you never know who you can attract moving forward. It’s a good part of the world to live in, it’s a bit of a change from what they are used to so hopefully they can settle in quick.

“We’ve got Bailey Hodgson there too, who is Josh’s nephew. He is going really good at full-back, who by the looks of things will get the first crack. He’s a confident young kid and a tough little bugger too so hopefully he’ll go well in the trials and the sky is the limit for him.”

Super League’s fight to retain its best talent

Great Britain international Hastings, who won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel in 2019, admits it is hard for Super League to compete with the NRL due to the financial differences.

“Financially for them, money isn’t everything but it can almost be life changing for a young person who will be on maybe £50,000 or £60,000,” Hastings acknowledged on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast. “I think the minimum wage here is like $150,000. I know if you convert its closer but your contract as a kid could go up and up and up.

“If you come from a single parent home like Kai does for example, it’s life changing money not just for himself, but his mother and brothers too.

“I want to see superstar talent stay in Super League because I care about that competition so deeply and I’ve been there for so long. I almost feel like I started there but at the same time the players need to do what is best for themselves.

“The more talent we can get staying in Super League, the better English rugby league is going to be going forwards.”

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