Well, I’m back with another blog entry here on loverugbyleague.com and I’m continuing the overseas player debate. Welcome to PART TWO.
Those of you that have heard myself and James discussing the issue will know our feelings already but I did say that I would look at each Super League club to see if the overseas players on the books actually improve the standard of the squad.
It would be fair to say that most do and are also involved in some great work off the field. As a Leigh fan first and foremost, I certainly know that for the previous two years David Armitstead has done a great job in the community, spreading the rugby league gospel and helping some of the younger players at the club to develop.
After looking at four clubs last time, I want to look at four more.
HARLEQUINS: While in the past Harlequins, or as they were known previously London Broncos, used to be a place where you had difficulty spotting a player that was from the UK amongst their interesting mix of antipodeans, these days the Stoop is a different place. Sure there is a spine of foreign players but there is now a lot of emerging talent such as forwards Ben Bolger and Olsi Krasniqi, but more on them in a future blog.
Luke Dorn originally came to the UK to play for the then Broncos and later had spells with Salford and Castleford. The stand-off has always been a useful player who scores more than his fair share of tries and despite suffering a lot of injuries last term, when he did play, Luke caused problems for every team and scored 18 tries. Such is his record for the club that Dorn has now claimed 73 tries in 99 appearances. Another very useful player for Quins is hooker or halfback Chad Randall who has been with Harlequins since 2006. In that time he has proved very consistent and huge benefit to the Quins organisation, notching up 129 appearances before the start of Super League 2011.
HUDDERSFIELD: Perhaps impressively, Huddersfield are the most British team in Super League, one with just five overseas players but I was disappointed that they brought in Jamie Simpson the other week from South Sydney. Don’t get me wrong it’s not that I have anything against Simpson, I’m sure he will do okay and at 24 he’s played nearly 40 first team games in the NRL. It is the fact that he is a centre, a position that we are struggling to fill with British players, yet the Giants have Michael Lawrence and Leroy Cudjoe who are in my opinion, more than capable. One of the Giants overseas contingent that I do rate is David Faiumu who offers a different dynamic at hooker to Shaun Lunt and is certainly very unpredictable. A player that I am surprised has stayed at the Galpharm Stadium is Jamahl Lolesi.
To be fair 2010 was not a vintage year for Lolesi and at times he didn’t seem to be the same force as in previous seasons. I feel his continued presence has already forced Martin Aspinwall to look elsewhere and it does make you wonder that with the likes of the exciting Jermaine McGilvary will get a chance?
HULL: Last season Hull spent big on their overseas players and there is no doubting the two big names were well respected players in the NRL. Craig Fitzgibbon whilst in the veteran stages (well he’s 33) played a big part in proceedings at the KC Stadium while another former Australian international, Mark O’Meley, affectionately known in the NRL as “The Ogre”, recovered from a slow start and improved as his first season went on. While these two players add undoubted quality, I’m not sure whether Sam Moa adds as much value. He is an impact prop as his 19 substitute appearances in 2010 point too but whereas Fitzgibbon adds a big slice of experience and hopefully, if you are a Hull fan, more game time with Sean Long and Richard Horne in the future to make a good midfield spine, Moa just seems to have replaced Scott Wheeldon, who moved across the city for more games.
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS: Some people point to Hull KR as the model that future teams operating a Super League license aspire too and without doubt, from a results and league position view, they have been very successful since winning the Championship Grand Final in 2006, however they are also probably the top of my list for griping at because at times last season it was a case of having to listen closely to see if you could hear an English accent. This year it promises to be even worse as a recent glance at their squad suggests that as many as ten overseas players could start for Rovers in 2011.
Before people start accusing me of allsorts, Rovers have one of the smartest players in the Super League on their books in Michael Dobson who has been a tremendous points getter since first coming across to the Super League as a young man, firstly with Catalans thanks to an injury to Stacey Jones, and then at Wigan where his form helped keep the Warriors out of trouble in 2006. Last year Dobson scored nearly 300 points for Rovers and a similar sort of point accumulation should see the Robins in a good league position again.
On the flip side, very few players remain at Craven Park from the team that won promotion and in this, Rovers fifth season in Super League you would still struggle to pinpoint a local young player that has come through the ranks other than Liam Watts and Kris Welham. I hope that they can soon start producing players of their own as TEN overseas players is too excessive in my opinion.
I’ll be back soon with Part Three.