Category Archives: ESL/International RL

Thompson to join Bulldogs from 2021

Incoming Canterbury Bulldogs prop Luke Thompson

Regarded as one of the best props in Super League, Luke Thompson will depart St Helens to join the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2021.

Informed of Thompson’s decision last week, St Helens admit they are sad but would not stand in the prop’s way.

“We were informed last week that Luke has decided to join Canterbury Bulldogs next season,” said club Chairman Eamonn McManus.

“We accept and totally respect Luke’s decision and wish him nothing but success in his career and in his life.

“We are absolutely sure that he will be absolutely committed to the Club and to his teammates for the rest of this season.”

Should he wish to return to the Super League, St Helens say they will be waiting with open arms.

“There’s no hiding from the fact that this is a bitter disappointment to all of us,” continued McManus.

“Luke has been connected to the Club since the age of 11 and has developed into an absolute top player at 24 years old.

“If ever he decides to return to England and to Super League then there would be a red carpet waiting for him at St. Helens.”

Still a young player, Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill opened up about the leadership qualities that Thompson has.

“Even though Luke is at the start of his career, we have been really impressed by his on-field leadership qualities and his desire to be the best.

“He is an excellent player who has become a star of the Super League and has shown what he is capable of at International level.

“We are looking forward to him getting the chance to show everyone in the NRL what he is capable of.”

Thompson is excited about the history of the Bulldogs and looks forward to joining them from 2021.

“Getting the chance to join the Bulldogs and be a part of a club with so much history and with such passionate fans is very exciting,” said Thompson.

“Having spoken to many people at the club and listened to their plans for the future, I know that they are building for success and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

With one eye on his Bulldogs adventure, Thompson says his focus will remain with St Helens for 2020.

“When you join a club like the Bulldogs you know about the players and the culture that has gone before you,” continued Thompson.

“The fact that second best isn’t good enough and that was something that was important to me.

I look forward to joining them for the 2021 season and getting to be a part of a talented squad that is hungry for success.

“This will now enable me to focus on having a great final season with St Helens.”

England appoint Wane as new head coach

New England coach Shaun Wane

Wayne Bennett is out and Shaun Wane is in. That is the change at the top for the England national team. 

Wane will take over the reins from the departing Bennett on a two-year contract.

The former Wigan head coach returns to rugby league from a stint in Scottish rugby.

Wane is honoured to have the chance in the role with some big tournaments coming up.

“I am honoured to be appointed Head Coach of my country’s national team at such an exciting and important time for Rugby League in England,” Wane said.

“We have a three-Test Ashes series against Australia this autumn, and after that we host the World Cup in 2021.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve always loved the game of Rugby League, and been proud of British Rugby League.”

With players on offer in both England and Australia, Wane looks forward to success involving players from both areas.

“I’m looking forward so much to starting work with the outstanding Rugby League players we have in this country,” Wane continued.

Also the guys who have enjoyed success in Australia in recent years, to do all we can to win the World Cup next year.”

The appointment of Wane is one that excites those associated with the English governing body, the Rugby Football League.

“We think this is an exciting appointment that will be welcomed by England Rugby League supporters as we prepare for this year’s Ashes series, and the 2021 Rugby League World Cup,” said RFL CEO, Ralph Rimmer.

“Shaun is passionate about the game and his country, and also an outstanding coach, as shown by his record in eight seasons as Wigan’s head coach, a major feature of which was the success he and the club had in developing so many homegrown players.

“With two years to go in the lead up to RLWC2021, a full review was always programmed in to follow from the 2019 Great Britain tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Super League preview part two

In part two of our 2020 Super League preview we examine Salford, St. Helens, Toronto, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan.


Salford Red Devils

2019 finish: 3rd

Ground: AJ Bell Stadium

Coach: Ian Watson

Captain(s): Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan

Salford Red Devils captain Lee Mossop

After one of the most surprising seasons in recent history Ian Watson’s men defied the odds to finish 3rd and make their way to their first ever Super League Grand Final.

However, as a new season dawns, the Red Devils see plenty of big departures with the inspirational Jackson Hastings, Josh Jones, George Griffin, Darell Olpherts and Robert Lui all making an exit.

This year may just be a transitional year for Watson’s men, meaning both Joey Lussick and Niall Evalds will be pivotal as the season goes on.

They have been able to fill some voids though, adding Kevin Brown, James Greenwood, Dan Sarginson and Sebastine Ikahihifo in the hope of following on from a sensational 2019.

Salford Red Devils utility back Tuimoala Lolohea

Player to watch

Even though it did not work out for him at Leeds, Tuimoala Lolohea has seemingly found a new lease of life with Salford.

If his performances for Tonga towards the end of the year are anything to go by, then it will be interesting to see where this side goes from here with the halfback in tow.

Prediction: 9th


St. Helens

2019 season finish: 1st  (Champions)

Ground: Totally Wicked Stadium

Coach: Kristian Woolf

Captain: James Roby

St Helens hooker James Roby

Unlike other teams around them, the 2019 Super League Champions have decided against adding any extra talent to the side that dominated most of last year.

Well, they do say why mess with a winning formula and again the Saints still look an unfathomable unit with James Roby leading the way once again.

It is possible to think though that the Red Vee will not always have it their own way this year especially with how other teams have added over the off season.

Though when you have Lachlan Coote, Regan Grace, Kevin Naiqama, Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax in the backline and a front row consisting of Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley, then you will still be brave to bet against them.

St Helens prop Luke Thompson

Player to watch

In a team that has its fair share of impact players, Jonny Lomax has been one of the most consistent performers over the last couple of years.

His versatility and ability to unlock an opponent’s defence saw him claim 16 tries and 21 try assists last year. Man of Steel 2020 anyone?

Prediction: 2nd

St Helens utility back Jonny Lomax

Toronto Wolfpack

2019 season finish: N/A (recently promoted from Championship)

Ground: Lampert Stadium

Coach: Brian McDermott

Captain: Josh McCrone

Toronto Wolfpack captain Josh McCrone

The first ever transatlantic rugby league team make their highly anticipated debut in Super League this year.

In the process, they bring with them one of the biggest acquisitions in the sport’s history, if not the biggest in Sonny Bill Williams.

The 34-year-old will make his return to rugby league for the first time since 2014 and will provide a huge boost in the back row.

Alongside SBW, Toronto have the coaching of McDermott and Super League experience of Joe Mellor, Gareth O’Brian, Matty Russell and Jon Wilkin.

Together, that should seemingly be enough to steer them to safety with a play-off spot maybe too much too soon for the North American side.

Newly signed Toronto Wolfpack back-rower Sonny Bill Williams

Player to watch

Even though all eyes will be on SBW, the key man for McDermott’s side may just be the talented Andy Ackers at dummy half.

The 26-year-old has spent time with Swinton and London before joining Toronto in 2018 and has developed a reputation as one of the best hookers in the country outside of Super League.

Prediction: 10th


Wakefield Trinity Wildcats

2019 season finish: 9th

Ground: Belle Vue (Mobile Rocket Stadium)

Coach: Chris Chester

Captain: Jacob Miller

Wakefield captain Jacob Miller

The West Yorkshire side should be quietly confident they can challenge some of the leading contenders ahead of them this season.

They face a fight in the middle table with the likes of Leeds, Castleford and Catalan looks to be much likelier.

The Wildcats have brought in Joe Westerman, Chris Green and Jay Pitts to bolster the forwards.

They still have influential players in Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne and Danny Brough to create opportunities going forward.

Wakefield player Reece Lyne

Also, the additions of the young and exceptionally talented Alex Walker and veteran Ryan Atkins certainly bolster the backline.

Player to watch

There is no question that Tom Johnstone is the one to watch for Wakefield this year.

Over the last two years he has had his career curtailed after a pair of serious injuries saw him miss a substantial amount of time.

Wakefield utility back Tom Johnstone

However, if he stays healthy, he remains one of the most exciting talents out there with his electric speed and finishing ability.

Prediction: 8th


Warrington Wolves

2019 season finish: 4th

Ground: Halliwell Jones Stadium

Coach: Steve Price

Captain(s): Chris Hill and Jack Hughes

Warrington Wolves captain Chris Hill

In the duo of Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop. the Wire have two of the most lethal halves in the league to get them in to the top two this year.

The departure of Ryan Atkins and Bryson Goodwin have left a gap in the centres.

The trio of Toby King, Jake Mamo and Keenan Brand alongside new signing Anthony Gelling show there are plenty of options for Steve Price there.

Even out wide, they have two exceptional try scorers in Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham.

Warrington Wolves utility back Tom Lineham

There are huge presences in the forward pack with Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Joe Philbin, Ben Currie, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola.

Not to mention catalyst Daryl Clark flying around at dummy half.

All the ingredients are there, it is up to the Wolves now as to whether they can finally put the pieces together and finally achieve the big one.

Warrington Wolves player Josh Charnley

Player to watch

We already know what the likes of Austin, Widdop and Charnley so for Warrington, I decided to look at more youthful prospect and that is Matty Ashton.

The 21-year-old arrived from Swinton Lions recently and comes into Super League as the second tier’s top try scorer and Young Player of the Year in 2019.

Prediction: 3rd


Wigan Warriors

2019 season finish: 2nd

Ground: DW Stadium

Coach: Adrian Lam

Captain: Sean O’Loughlin

Wigan Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin

Alongside Hull FC, Wigan have probably made some of the best signings over the course of the post season.

2019 Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings has joining the fray to go with the inclusions of George Burgess, Mitch Clark and Jake Bibby.

The Warriors have a team filled with a great blend of youth and experience and that was certainly evident last year.

Youngsters Morgan Smithies and Oliver Partington gained valuable first team minutes and showed why they are potential stars in the making.

Wigan Warriors youngster Morgan Smithies

If you combine all this with the leadership of Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Thomas Leuluai and the skill and talent of Zak Hardaker, Oliver Gildart, Bevan French and Joe Burgess, then Wigan have it all to go better than 2nd this year.

Player to watch

Although you can point to either Smithies or Partington or the fact that Gildart is set to miss the start of the season due to injury, the stage is set for Bevan French.

He has a chance to announce himself in his first full year with the Warriors.

Wigan Warriors fullback Bevan French

The 24-year-old certainly has all the skills and creativity to be one Adrian Lam’s best attacking weapons this coming season.

Prediction: 1st


 

Super League 2020 team guide part one

As the 2020 Super League season gets underway on Thursday night, I put each team under the microscope with part one looking at Castleford, Catalans, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hull KR and Leeds.


Castleford Tigers

2019 season finish: 5th

Ground: Mend-a-hose Jungle

Coach: Daryl Powell

Captain: Michael Shenton

The biggest change for Castleford sees the departure of Luke Gale to Leeds and the acquisition of the young and talented Danny Richardson from St. Helens.

He will now partner the equally young and exceptional Jake Trueman in the halves. 

Castleford Tigers half Jake Trueman

A duo that will be pivotal to their play-off aspirations this season and one that will be worth paying close attention to. 

Daryl Powell has also been able to partly solve the nagging issue of squad depth.

The signings of Sosaia Feki from Cronulla and Derell Olpherts from Salford add strength on the flanks.

The big additions of George Griffin and Tyla Hepi will also be a huge plus in the forward pack as the Tigers look to push their way into the top 5.

Player to watch

After making his professional debut in 2017, Jake Trueman has gone from strength to strength and established himself as a regular starter last season with Luke Gale out through injury.

As we come into 2020, the now Gale less Tigers will now look to their new star to run the ship in the middle of the park alongside Richardson.

Prediction: 5th


Catalan Dragons

2019 season finish: 7th

Ground: Stade Gilbert Brutus

Coach: Steve McNamara

Captain: Remi Casty

The 2018 Challenge Cup winners have been one of those sides that has floated around mid-table for some time now.

The emerging Perpignan side are still sneakily building a side that has the ability to make life difficult for some of the league’s top sides.

Newly signed Catalans Dragons half James Maloney

The huge signing of James Maloney solidifies the halves as he could look to partner the returning Josh Drinkwater.

Drinkwater was somewhat of a difference maker during his first stint with the Dragons as well as with Hull KR.

This new partnership opens the door for Sam Tomkins to move to the fullback role with 2018 Lance Todd Trophy winner, Tony Gigot opting not to resign with the club.

This trio of quality talent alongside the likes of David Mead, Lewis Tierney and Fouad Yaha in the backline is potent.

Impact players like Michael McIlorum, Remi Casty and Sam Moa in the forward pack will also be out to impress.

Catalans Dragons captain Remi Casty

There is no question the Dragons have all the necessary ingredients to make the playoffs but again it comes down to them being able to perform on a consistent basis and not just at home.

Player to watch

It probably will not come as a shock to many but undoubtedly the key man for the French side will be James Maloney whose experience, knowledge of the game and winning mentality are all huge pluses.

Prediction: 7th


Huddersfield Giants

2019 season finish: 10th

Ground: John Smith’s Stadium

Coach: Simon Woolford

Captain: Aidan Sezer

New Huddersfield Giants half Aidan Sezer

The Giants received a huge boost by bringing in Aidan Sezer from Canberra but even with such a noteworthy signing.

Unfortunately, Huddersfield may just find themselves in a relegation battle once again.

Despite the additions of Sezer, Ashton Golding, Kenny Edwards and James Gavet, Huddersfield still lack the depth and quality.

Compared to other teams around them, in the end, it could prove to be another tough battle for Simon Woolford’s men.

Player to watch

If the West Yorkshire side are to make anything of the season, then the premise will certainly be on Aidan Sezer to be the catalyst that sparks something.

The 28-year-old is quite possibly the Giants biggest NRL coup since acquiring Brett Hodgson in 2009.

Fans will be hoping that the former Canberra halfback will have a similar impact as that of the former Parramatta and West Tigers star.

Prediction: 12th


Hull FC

2019 season finish: 6th

Ground: KCOM Stadium

Coach: Lee Radford

Captain: Danny Houghton

Hull FC fan favourite Mahe Fonua

The Airlie Birds are probably one of the most frustrating teams to watch in recent years.

Although they won back to back Challenge Cups in 2016 and 2017, Hull FC have failed to translate the same success into the league.

This is despite running with a team that already boasts plenty of elite talent in the likes of Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Jake Connor and Danny Houghton.

Hull FC’s Jake Connor

However, Hull have been very forward in terms player recruitment with the returning Mahe Fonua and Adam Swift providing huge upgrades out on the flanks.

Also, the additions of a Tongan powerhouse in Manu Ma’u and Great Britain international Josh Jones add to an already huge forward pack.

With the right guidance, this could see Hull fielding a team that makes a decent run to the play-offs this year.

Hull FC captain Danny Houghton

Player to watch

You can certainly look to players such as Kelly and Sneyd to be integral to the team’s chances this season but from what we have seen in recent seasons then Jake Connor will be the man.

He will be expect to make things happen offensively with his elusive ball carrying and slick passing a real danger for any side.

Prediction: 4th


Hull KR

2019 season finish: 11th

Ground: Craven Park

Coach: Tony Smith

Captain: Weller Hauraki

Hull KR captain Weller Hauraki

Hull KR certainly have not been quiet in terms of recruitment this off season either bringing in a host of talent at a variety of spots.

The Robins were able to bring in more players than any other team.

They went on a signing spree that was headlined by names such as Shaun Kenny Dowall, Greg Minikin, Harvey Livett and Jordan Abdull.

Tony Smith’s side could face another battle to avoid relegation.

Newly signed Hull KR centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall

However, evidence suggests they have a decent blend of youth and experience to guarantee themselves safety.

The combination of Kane Linnett and the newly recruited Kenny Dowall in the centres provide a great deal of experience that could prove beneficial to the younger players.

Additionally, when you have someone like Smith in the head coaching role, it all adds up to something positive.

Newly signed Hull KR winger Greg Minikin

Player to watch

The one player for Hull KR this season might just have to be Greg Minikin, who made a reputation at Castleford as a savvy and productive try scorer with 43 in 95 appearances for the Tigers.

Prediction: 11th


Leeds Rhinos

2019 season finish: 8th

Ground: Headingley

Coach: Richard Agar

Captain: Stevie Ward

Leeds Rhinos utility back Ash Handley

After another season of struggles, Leeds have been quite tactful in terms of player additions.

They have brought in Luke Gale, Kruise Leeming and NRL prop Matt Prior from Cronulla to provide huge boosts in their retrospective positions.

The duo of Ash Handley and Harry Newman are two of the league’s brightest young talents.

The duo will be called upon once again to take their game to another level this year.

Newly signed Leeds Rhinos half Robert Lui

Since the departures of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield Leeds have been unable a rock solid partnership in the halves.

Fast forward to this year and there is a fresh sense of optimism as Robert Lui and Luke Gale will take up the six and seven spots.

The hope is that the new duo can re-energise the Rhinos attack and have them threatening the play-offs once more.

Newly signed Leeds Rhinos half Luke Gale

Player to watch

His name has been mentioned already but if Leeds want to breathe some new life into this attack then Luke Gale will definitely have to be that man.

His ability to make things happen offensively with his passing and in game kicking remain second to none.

The former Castleford and Bradford man also brings with him a firm accuracy with the boot in terms of goal kicking, an aspect that Leeds have struggled with in recent seasons.

Prediction: 6th


 

Folau returns to rugby league with the Catalans Dragons

Newly signed Catalans Dragons player Israel Folau

The NRL said no but the RFL has made it happen; Israel Folau is back playing rugby league with French-based Super League side, the Catalans Dragons.

Folau, still only 30 and a dual international has signed a 1-year deal.

Heavily religious, Folau is no stranger to controversy with some of his comments angering the masses.

Folau opened up briefly about it and says he will not make further comments surrounding his views.

“I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League,” said Folau.

I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them.

I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons.”

Catalan Dragons Chairman Bernard Guasch made it clear the side wants to give Folau a chance but they do not support his views.

“We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch,” Guasch said.

“We do not support or agree with Israel’s previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief.

“We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone.”

Guasch went on to continue that Folau’s views should not be expressed by anyone, let alone someone like Folau.

“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person,” Guasch continued.

“We have a signed agreement with the RFL.

Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.”

Titans grant Latu release to join English side Warrington

Newly signed Warrington Wolves prop Leilani Latu

After more opportunity, Leilani Latu is expected to get that at the Warrington Wolves after being granted a release by the Gold Coast Titans.

Joining the club from the Penrith Panthers, Latu struggled for regular game time at the Titans, prompting the move to Wolves.

With Latu wanting a fresh start, the Titans were not about to stand in his way.

“Leilani and his family have been passionate members of the Gold Coast community, and as a Club, we are supportive of him taking this new opportunity for his career and family,” Titans Head of Performance and Culture Mal Meninga said.

“The Titans thank Leilani for his time at the Club, and wish his nothing but the best for the future.”

Latu’s arrival at Warrington will see him rejoin some familiar faces.

The prop played with both Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola at Penrith.

“I’m looking forward to getting into training with the boys and creating some combinations with them,” Latu said.

“It’s an exciting brand of footy here and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

I chose Warrington because of the quality of players and I have played with a couple of them back in the NRL too; Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola at Penrith and we had some success there.”

Warrington coach Steve Price says Latu fits the bill in terms of what the club was looking for in the forwards.

“We are always looking for quality rugby players to bring to our club and we feel Leilani fits that,” said Price.

“I’m looking forward to working with him and developing his game during his time at Warrington as we feel there is a lot more he can bring to the game.”

New pastures for Sezer with Giants move confirmed

New Huddersfield Giants half Aidan Sezer

With the George Williams signing confirmed, the halves future looked bleak for Aidan Sezer, prompting the half to jump ship to the Huddersfield Giants.

The English-based Super League club have signed the experienced half on a two-year deal.

Sezer is no stranger to Simon Woolford, having worked briefly alongside him at the Raiders.

“It’s been a drawn out process for most of the year, but to have it all done is a great relief,” Sezer said.

“Joining up with Simon and the boys will be a relief – obviously it was a disappointing campaign last year for the Giants but the ambition of the club and the group is exciting.

“I’m really looking forward to get over there and have a successful campaign in 2020.”

The opportunity was too good for Sezer to refuse in the end, as he looks forward to what lies ahead with the Giants.

“I’ve followed the Super League pretty closely and I’ve always said I want to be a part of it and hopefully go over there and I’m delighted it’s come,” continued Sezer.

“I’ve got a good opportunity to play with the Giants and to play for a great club and hopefully have a successful campaign.”

With the addition of other solid players, Sezer believes the Giants have the makings of a good side moving forward.

“Hopefully my big game experience will carry through, I’m a more mature player now,” continued the veteran.

“We’ve already got big game experience with Jordan Turner who is Grand Final winner, we’ve added some great experience with Kenny Edwards – a high quality player back-rower and of course James Gavet, who’s been a really solid front-rower in the NRL.

“I think as a collective we’ve got things to be optimistic about in the coming year.”

Woolford praised the signing of Sezer and talked up the half for his experience, poise and kicking game.

“I am delighted to finally get the news of Aidan Sezer’s signing out as it’s been a long process,” Woolford said.

“Everyone knows he was my preferred pick in the crucial half back area but to get a current NRL Grand Finalist over here in the prime of his career really is a massive boost for the Giants and the game as a whole.

“With over 150 career games in the NRL and experience of finals football, his pedigree speaks for itself and he will be a real asset for the team.”

His all-round skills as a half, both as a kicker and a runner, are what especially excite Woolford.

“He is an experienced organiser, a superb kicker of the ball both out of the hand and off the tee, and with his 83% kicking success rate, he’ll obviously become our primary kicker,” Woolford continued.

“His running game I think will complement the people around him and above all he is from a winning environment at Canberra and having enjoyed such a stellar season last year can bring a lot of that toughness and win at all costs mentality that successful teams need.

10 Super League signings to watch out for in 2020

Over the course of the off season, there has been plenty of player movement throughout Super League.

Now, as pre-season gets underway towards the end of the calendar year, I take a look at 10 signings that make all the difference for their retrospective new clubs.


Sonny Bill Williams (Toronto Wolfpack)

Let’s start off with maybe the most obvious choice and one of the biggest acquisitions in the sports history.

It is amazing to think with the career that SBW has had that this will be his first ever season in Super League.

Newly signed Toronto Wolfpack veteran Sonny Bill Williams

Remarkably, we will finally see Williams in UK’s premier division with expansionist side Toronto Wolfpack.

Even at 34, the cross-code star remains the full package and one incredible athlete who if can remain healthy may just prove to be a devastating addition to Canadian side.


Luke Gale (Leeds Rhinos)

Since the departures of Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, the Rhinos have been crying out for a play caller and someone to just inject some energy and creativity in the middle of the field.

New Leeds Rhinos half Luke Gale

In recent times, the Rhinos have looked to the likes of Richie Myler and Tui Lolohea to fill the void but have fallen short on consistency.

But the return of the 2017 Man of Steel into the Leeds fold may just rectify that with his ability to unlock the defence and his firm accuracy with the boot.


James Maloney (Catalans Dragons)

Alongside Sonny Bill, this is another huge coup for Super League as Maloney makes his bow across the pond with the Catalans Dragons.

A NRL title and State of Origin winner who will bring a wealth of experience and championship winning mentality to a side that looks to keep making big strides in the game.

Newly signed Catalans Dragons half James Maloney

The 2018 Challenge Cup winners may even become more of a handful as the season goes along with Maloney possibly teaming up with Josh Drinkwater in the halves.


Adam Swift (Hull FC)

For the last couple of seasons, Hull FC have seemingly lacked that little extra something out on the edge and now even more especially after the retirement of Fetuli Talanoa.

However, the return of Mahe Fonua along with bringing in Adam Swift from St. Helens may just give the Hull faithful a whiff of optimism.

New Hull FC utility back Adam Swift

The 26-year-old Swift brings a decent try scoring record to Humberside after scoring 86 tries in 130 appearances.

Alongside the likes of Jake Connor, Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd, he can easily add to his try tally.


Alex Walker (Wakefield Trinity)

One of the country’s most promising youngsters who burst onto to rugby league scene with London Broncos who always looked set to make his presence felt in Super League at some point.

The 24-year-old was a big factor in London’s promotion to Super League.

New Wakefield Trinity acquisition Alex Walker

He now makes the move over to West Yorkshire and that of the Wakefield Trinity.

His positional awareness at the fullback spot will make him a welcome addition to Chris Chester’s side.


Josh Jones (Hull FC)

After one of his best seasons to date, Jones more than deserved his Great Britain call up.

After spending a good proportion of his career with Salford, the second rower now makes the move over to Hull FC.

New Hull FC addition, hulking forward Josh Jones

The Airlie Birds have seen the exits of veteran backrowers Sika Manu and Mark Minichello this post season.

The inclusion of Jones with his offloading and powerful running can partially fill the void left my two consistent performers.


Gareth Widdop (Warrington Wolves)

After spending the entirety of his professional career in the NRL, the Halifax born Widdop will be another premier talent that is set to make his debut in Super League in 2020.

The 29-year-old joins Warrington for the new season and will look to bring all the game management and offensive creativity that made him a success in the NRL.

Returning Englishman and new Warrington Wolves half Gareth Widdop

Over the last couple of seasons, it has been a case of so near yet so far for Warrington.

Could Widdop be the final piece of that puzzle alongside Blake Austin in a dream halfback combination?


Jackson Hastings (Wigan Warriors)

The 2019 Man of Steel winner was the beacon of consistency and creativity that Salford had needed for some time and in turn steered them to their first ever Super League Final.

The 23-year-old was the Red Devils key catalyst over the course of last season and led both his side and the league in try assists with 36.

2019 Man of Steel winner and new Wigan Warriors half Jackson Hastings

The versatile back now joins Wigan from the 2020 season,

If the GB international is able to find a connection alongside the likes of Oliver Gildart, Zak Hardaker and Bevan French, then the Warriors can easily continue to be the force they have been for so long.


George Burgess (Wigan Warriors)

An ageing Wigan front row consisting of Tony Clubb and Ben Flower had a new lease of life of last season.

Youngsters Oliver Partington and Liam Byrne burst onto the scene in the front row.

Newly signed Wigan Warriors prop George Burgess

Now, with the addition of George Burgess come the new season, Wigan’s forward pack certainly looks as bolstered as ever.

Even despite a poor discipline record in recent times, the 27-year-old’s sheer size, presence, intensity and big game experience in the NRL mean he could definitely be an impact player over the course of 2020.


Greg Minikin (Hull KR)

It is fair to say that Hull KR have not exactly been quiet in terms of recruitment, with plenty of noteworthy names taking their trade over to Humberside.

However, one name that could stand out over the course of the season may just be Greg Minikin.

New Hull KR signing Greg Minikin

The centre has played some of his best rugby while at Castleford, showcasing to be a prolific try scorer in the Tigers run to the Grand Final in 2017. 


 

10 Super League Players who could potentially make an impact in the NRL today

St Helens prop Luke Thompson

Throughout the many years of rugby league, we have seen plenty of players from the United Kingdom take their qualities across the world to the Southern hemisphere.

For some, it does not always work out but for others it proves to be a masterstroke in terms of their development as a player.

Most recently, we saw Bateman take the league by storm in his debut NRL season so in response to this, I take a look at the 10 Super League players in today’s game who could make the jump down under.  


Luke Thompson (St. Helens)

Is there a better prop forward in Super League at the moment?

The 24-year-old has been a mainstay in the St. Helens front row over the last two seasons and is a player who possesses all he aggressiveness, tenacity and intensity that could see him thrive down under.

Since making his debut in 2013, the barnstorming prop has only gotten better and this year put forth his best season to date this year.

He will prove to be a key figurehead in a Saints side that claimed Super League glory and reached the Challenge Cup final. 


Jake Connor (Hull FC)

The Hull FC star’s slick ball handling and carrying skills have seen him thrive at the centre position for the Airlie Birds.

Over the course of history, outside backs who have made the journey over have struggled to cope with the physicality that comes with playing in the NRL.

Hull FC utility back Jake Connor

However, Connor’s undeniable talent could see become someone who can break the mould if given the opportunity. 


Tommy Makinson (St. Helens)

There probably has not been a better finisher in Super League over the last few seasons and the spectacular just seems to be a common occurrence for the 2018 Golden Boot winner.

His ability to score through the tightest of windows is second to none.

The 28-year-old finally got a taste of the international stage last year after his debut for England.

St Helens utility back Tommy Makinson

He showed the NRL exactly what he can do with a pair of superb performances against New Zealand.

The 2019 season also proved to be another great year as he finished as Super League’s leading try scorer.


Tom Johnstone (Wakefield)

It is fair to say that lady luck has not exactly been on the side of the Wakefield flyer who has endured two season ending injuries in the last three seasons.

However, Johnstone’s ceiling still remains high and at the age of 24, he still has plenty of quality years ahead of him if he can recover from this latest injury setback.

Wakefield utility back Tom Johnstone

A more than natural finisher, Johnstone has gone on to score 67 times in 78 appearances for the West Yorkshire club. 


Alex Walmsley (St. Helens)

The 28 year-old’s front row tandem with Thompson has been something to behold these last couple of seasons.

After a miraculous recovery from a broken neck last year, Walmsley has gone on to become a fearsome prop forward and undoubtedly in the top five at his position in the league.

St Helens prop Alex Walmsley

The Saints man has all the traits needed to make his presence felt in a tough and physical league and similar to that of the Burgess’, his size, strength and huge motor all can prove integral in getting his side on the front foot.


Daryl Clark (Warrington)

At the age of 21, Clark looked destined to be the elite talent he is now after winning the 2014 Man of Steel award with the Castleford Tigers.

Since joining Warrington in 2015, he has just continued to shine.

Warrington Wolves hooker Daryl Clark

The 26-year-old oozes quality and has showcased a fine amount of durability with nearly 250 appearances under his belt.

With his electric running out of the hooker spot and pinpoint passing, it could see him make a mark wherever he goes.


Oliver Gildart (Wigan)

Even at the age of 23, Gildart already has plenty of experience under his belt, featuring over 100 times for the Warriors.

In that time, he has racked up over 50 tries to his name since making his debut in 2015.

Wigan Warriors utility back Oliver Gildart

The star centre’s inclusion in last autumn’s England squad and now a revived GB side just goes to show how quickly he has made an impact in his professional career.

A free flowing and attacking player who can rack up the metres in the southern hemisphere and has already shown a winning mentality at such a young tender age with two Super League crowns. 


Liam Watts (Castleford)

We have already touched on how physical the NRL can be and a man who continues to show a fine amount of physicality and toughness in Super League has been Watts.

The Tigers prop was undoubtedly one of the Tigers best players this season after being shortlisted for the season’s Man of Steel award.

Castleford Tigers prop Liam Watts

Despite not having an international cap under his belt, Watts has been a measure of consistency over the last two yeara.

He has rejuvenated himself since moving to Castleford at the start of the year and his tough and gritty style of play give him every chance down under. 


Jonny Lomax (St. Helens)

The 29-year-old has all the versatility and creative flair to make an instant impact in Australia’s top tier with an ability to play anywhere in the backs from halfback to fullback.

Since making his debut back in 2009, Lomax has had a hard time with injuries but one thing that never seemed to escape him was the immense talent he possessed.

After suffering a serious knee injury in 2014, he missed a substantial amount of time sitting out most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

St Helens utility back Jonny Lomax

However, after a full recovery, Lomax made his comeback at the start of the 2016 Super League season and has not seemed to miss a step as over the last three years.

He has cemented himself well and truly as a catalyst for St. Helens and a man who can do it all on the offensive front.


Toby King (Warrington)

Now, to some, this may seem like a real longshot but at the age of 23, King has the potential to be a future impact player for Warrington and possibly one day in the NRL.

The centre made his debut in 2014 and featured sporadically up until the 2019 season where he was a fully fledged starter for the Wire.

Warrington Wolves centre Toby King

In a more central role, King is already showcasing himself to be a great attacking weapon with a great eye for the try line.

He has scored 28 tries and featured on 82 occasions for the primrose and blue.

Most recently, King was selected as part of the England Knights team that faced Jamaica, putting an excellent effort that included a try and a brace of try assists. 


 

Great Britain end their dreadful Oceania tour with a loss to Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea half Watson Boas

The final match of the 2019 Rugby League Calendar is here. Papua New Guinea Kumuls vs Great Britain Lions.

Both teams have not won a game this year and will want to end the season on a positive note.

Kickoff

From the very first kickoff, Luke Page took the hitup.

From this hitup, St George Illawarra Dragons forward, James Graham would go down and he left the field only 1 minute into the game.

15 minutes in, Great Britain clocked the first points onto the scoreboard.

On a spread to the left, Warrington Wolves half, Gareth Widdop threw a cutout to Hull FC back, Jake Connor.

Connor drew and passed to Warrington Wolves back, Blake Austin who dived over in the corner for first points.

Widdop’s conversion from the left sideline was shanked across the face and the lead remained 4-0.

England five-eighth Gareth Widdop

With less than 20 minutes left in the half, Great Britain were back inside the 10 metre line.

Josh Hodgson dummied left and ran through himself to score the GB Lions’ second unanswered try.

Widdop converted from the right side to make the lead 10-0.

With 10 minutes left in the half, it looked like Edene Gebbie had possibly scored PNG’s first try in the corner.

The video ref would deny him, however, because he was deemed to have grounded the ball on the touch in goal line.

The Great Britain Lions brought the ball out to the 20 metre line for the 7 tackle set.

As the buzzer went for half time, the Kumuls just got one last play the ball in time.

PNG player Edwin Ipape

Edwin Ipape faked to go down the short side and busted the defence on his own through the middle.

Ipape ran all the way to the endzone and planted the ball down to finish off his 63-metre effort from dummy half!

Kyle Laybutt converted from almost right in front to lower the deficit to 6-10.

Half Time

Papua New Guinea 6 – 10 Great Britain

6 minutes into the second half, PNG were 30 metres out on the 4th tackle.

Gebbie from dummy half put in a grubber through the line and there was no lions fullback at home.

Watson Boas raced through and got to the ball first for the try to level the scores.

Rhyse Martin split the sticks from the far left side to take the lead 12-10!

With less than half an hour left, PNG were inside the 10 metre line.

Laybutt put a kick through that ricocheted off of a Great Britain player.

Papua New Guinea utility back Justin Olam

The ricochet landed perfectly for Justin Olam to sprint into it and score the try!

Martin landed the conversion from the far left side to make the lead 18-10!

Only 3 minutes later, PNG were back inside the 10 and had a chance to keep the points flowing.

Boas put a kick through but it didn’t make it through the line.

On the ground, Boas picked it up and handed it off to South Sydney Rabbitohs utility back Alex Johnston who sprinted around the defence to score.

 

Martin missed the conversion so the lead remained 22-10.

With 15 minutes left in the game, PNG were at midfield on the last tackle.

England prop James Graham

Wartovo Puara gave it to Laybutt who bombed it for Jonny Lomax to catch.

Lomax knocked it on and Nixon Putt capitalised on it to score and make it a 3-score game.

Martin nailed the kick from the right side after hitting the post to make the lead 28-10.

Full Time

Papua New Guinea 28 – 10 Great Britain