While not wishing to steal the thunder on the forthcoming third and fourth episodes of “Talking Points” I did say that my forthcoming blog entries would discuss some of the high quality overseas players in Super League and also the pitfalls and strengths of them operating in this Hemisphere. This is the first of a four part blog which in its entirety will look at an overseas player or two for each Super League Club.
PART ONE: Let’s do this in some logical order. I did first of all try putting them in number of overseas player order but that was far too taxing on my non-mathematical brain, so I have picked the best way to go – alphabetical!
BRADFORD: This season, The Bulls have recruited a number of new players with perhaps plenty at Odsal (I can’t get used to calling it Grattan) Stadium looking forward to seeing how Kiwi centre Patrick Ah Van goes and the early signs suggest a sound investment – he kicked six goals in the Bulls recent friendly win over Halifax and played at centre and stand-off in the win. The 22 year old joined the club from New Zealand Warriors after playing over 50 times in the NRL since a 2006 debut.
Now whilst it is always exciting to see an emerging talent like Patrick play, I can’t help but think what a kick in the teeth it must be to someone like Jason Crookes who has played nothing more than an occasional part for the Bulls and at 20/21 years of age should arguably be given a chance ahead of a foreigner?
CASTLEFORD: Ryan McGoldrick has shown good loyalty to Castleford over many years and perhaps is a bit unlucky to be getting a mention here. While it can be argued that he is not a top quality player that adds a lot to the competition, the man of many tattoos and even more haircuts has ran his blood to water for the Tigers and will go round the clock again and no doubt be amongst the league’s most consistent players (again!).
What it does mean is that Richard Owen, who sadly broke his leg early last season, faces another year of trying to push through, although admittedly the nasty injury and lengthy recovery time is a contributing factor.
CATALANS: The French team are allowed 8 overseas players in their squad and a lot of these help to boost a side you can safely say when looking at the French international team, would be at the bottom of the league. A player I think will be a big success next year in Perpignan is Steve Menzies. Deservedly revered in Australia and Manly for whom he appeared over 300 times, Menzies also had two very good years at an inconsistent Bradford. With Stanley Gene no longer running around in the top comp, Menzies will be the oldest player in Super League but his experience and know-how will be invaluable.
On the flip side, the same question applies, how will the French ever improve if players are not given their chance. Certainly in two years as France international coach, Bobbie Goulding has introduced several other players to the rigours of the international rugby but some have still to earn their spurs in the Super League.
CRUSADERS: There is no doubt that once again the Crusaders will rely on overseas players however the evidence of their first friendly of 2011 at Widnes suggests that some of the younger Welsh players could well be worth a shot.
One player I think adds valuable know-how to the Crusaders is Clinton Schifcoske, the former Canberra Raiders player did a couple of years playing rugby union in Ireland before being tempted out of his exile in Ireland. Although 35, Schifcoske finished top point scorer for the Crusaders last term but judging from the performance of young Jamie Murphy at the Stobart Stadium, Schifcoske will have to be at the top of his game.
Another player that I am looking forward to seeing more of in Super League Fifteen is Jarrod Sammutt. The exciting halfback could become a real cult hero in Wales with the way that he plays the game. One word describes Sammutt – unpredictable and after putting aside speculation about his future he will pass his tips onto Lloyd White, another Welsh youngster that is looking to fulfil his potential after a super European Cup campaign and a good end to the season as a dual contract player at South Wales Scorpions.
Whilst there are a higher percentage of overseas players in Wrexham, the development and credibility of the sport depends to a certain extent on the Welsh side remaining competitive in the top division.
I’ll be back soon with Part Two!