Category Archives: ESL/International RL

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.


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

PNG women pick up first ever international win over England

Here we are, the final day of the 2019 Rugby League season. To start, we have a women’s test match as the Papua New Guinea Orchids face the England Lionesses.

The women’s England beat Papua New Guinea last week 24-10 so Will England go 2-up over PNG or will PNG avenge last week’s loss?


From the very first set, Rhiannon Marshall busted the PNG defence up the middle only getting stopped 10 metres out.

The very next play, England went on the short side to Tara-Jane Stanley to get the first points of the test match.

Stanley missed the conversion so the score remained 4-0, 2 minutes in.

10 minutes later, PNG would give away two penalties for a high tackle, and then for holding down in the tackle.

Stanley kicked the penalty goal from right in front, 30 metres out to make the lead 6-0.

5 minutes later, England made an error, 30 metres out from their own line.

PNG capitalised on this field position as they spread it right  only for Carol Humeu to barge over.

Erswin Kaiat didn’t get enough power on the kick from the far right side and the deficit remained 4-6.

With 15 minutes left in the half, PNG had great field position again.

They had a massive overlap left and brought it that way to send Belinda Gwasamum over the stripe.

This try took the lead for the Orchids and Kaiat extended it by kicking the goal from the far left side and making the lead 10-6.

This score remained until half time.

Half Time

Papua New Guinea 10 – 6 England

Copying England from the first half, PNG scored points in the very first set of the second half.

After getting field position due to a penalty, Roswita Kapo barged over just to the left of the posts to make it a 2-score game!

Kaiat converted from almost right in front to make the lead 16-6.

Discipline really dropped in this half with constant errors and penalties.

20 minutes into the half, England started a spread to the left side where they had an overlaps.

Instead of passing, Emily Rudge powered over with three defenders on her back to score!

Stanley shanked the kick to the right so the deficit remained 16-10.

With 12 minutes left and a converted try the difference, England were 30 metres out and needed points soon.

From dummy half, Jodie Cunningham went short side to Georgia Roache who sent Naomi Williams flying into open space for a 30 metre run to the try line.

From the right sideline, Stanley nailed the conversion and levelled the scores at 16-all.

Both sides traded errors and it was an arm wrestle as to who was going to make the error to cost their team the game.

England knocked on 40 out from their own line and PNG had good field position with 90 seconds left.

30 metres out, Shirley Joe dummied through the line and beat the fullback to score herself to win the game for PNG.

Kaiat didn’t get the length on the kick but it didn’t matter as the Orchids were victorious for an historic win.

Full Time

Papua New Guinea 20 – 16 England

PNG have achieved their first ever women’s international victory.

They defeated England in an extremely physical affair which saw Joe score the buzzer beater!

England will be trying to improve for next year as the PNG team will end the season as winners.

Wolfpack score massive coup with signing of Williams

Newly signed Toronto Wolfpack star Sonny Bill Williams

He is a dual international, a dynamic ball-runner and people the world over know his name. Now, Sonny Bill Williams will don the Toronto Wolfpack colours.

In a huge coup for the Super League, the Wolfpack and Canadian rugby league, this two year deal is likely to change everything.

As the Wolfpack embark on their debut season in the Super League, coming out all guns blazing was the key.

Signing Williams sets them on the path to strong achievements and the man himself is excited at the challenge that lies ahead.

“Toronto Wolfpack is a club that represents Toronto which is a very multicultural city,” Williams said.

“The club has big ambitions and big goals. I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals.

“On the field, I’d like to bring high quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team.”

Although his on-field efforts will be the ultimate key, Williams wants to help the younger generation and talent moving forward.

Off the field, I’d like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed,” Williams continued.

“Super league will be a new challenge and one I’m looking forward to. It will be a new experience and one I’m ready to embrace.”

Former Leeds Rhinos coach now at the helm of the Wolfpack, knows how big of a signing this is for the club.

“We have signed one of the highest profile rugby players, if not sports stars in the world,” McDermott said.

“He will enhance the world of rugby in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level.

“The main point of excitement for our club is that we are signing a great Rugby League player who has the hunger to be successful in Super League much as he was in the NRL and Rugby Union.”

Great Britain players to watch out for during 2019 Tour

St Helens powerhouse prop Luke Thompson

Luke Thompson

A player who just seems to be getting better and better with each game that passes.

It was undoubtedly a year to remember for Thompson who over the last two to three seasons has developed into one of the best prop forwards in Super League if not the best.

The Saints front rower has formed a powerhouse tandem alongside teammate Alex Walmsley and an epic year saw him become the first prop to claim the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his 72 minute workhorse display in the Super League Grand Final since Andy Platt in 1992. 

The 24-year-old is now set to wear the GB jersey for the first time this coming Saturday after earning four caps already for England.

He will look to replicate his domestic form onto the international stage with his extensive work rate and hard running tendencies that can make him an integral force in a GB forward pack that is already missing Sam Burgess.

As the Kiwis will have the likes Jared Waerea Hargeaves within their front row, Thompson’s presence becomes all the more vital and his matching up with JWH will certainly be a major battle to take note of throughout the series.

John Bateman

Well what more can you say about this man? The 25-year-old certainly made his presence felt over the course of his first year in the NRL.

He solidified his status as one of the best back rowers in the game with his outstanding offensive and defensive influence for Canberra.

Alongside the likes of Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead, the second rower was a pivotal factor in the Raiders run to the NRL Grand Final.

Canberra Raiders back-rower John Bateman

He consistently racked up the tackles and metres while proving to be an unstoppable force on numerous occasions in the green machine’s much improved pack. 

After playing the 2017 Rugby World Cup for England in an experimental centre role, it looks as if Bateman will now be back in his more suited position of the back row for Great Britain.

If the same ferociousness, explosiveness and work rate is still there after his impressive first stint in the NRL, then he has all the tools to lead Britain’s commanding force in a back row that contains Elliott Whitehead and international debutantes Josh Jones, Jack Hughes and Joe Philbin.

 Oliver Gildart

The 22-year-old’s star just continues to rise and he is another player who has cemented himself as one of the best at the centre position in Super League.

The Wigan man has been a catalyst in attack making the most metres by a Warriors players with 3,375 over the course of 2019 season and a figure that also sees him placed within the  top five in the league. 

Wigan Warriors centre Oliver Gildart

There seems to be plenty of faith in Gildart who is one of only two recognised centres in the GB squad so expect to see plenty more of the Wigan flyer as the tour goes on. 

If his GB debut is anything like his England debut, then we could be in for a treat.

The likes of Tonga and New Zealand cannot afford to give the Wigan ace any space to work with as he consistently looks to get forward and can be dangerous on the break.

Jonny Lomax

It is fair to say there has not been a more consistent player in Super League over the last two seasons.

The 2019 Albert Goldthorpe Medal winner’s versatility and ability to find gaps make him one of the biggest threats in the GB squad.

Although he will come off the bench in the game against Tonga on Saturday, the 29-year-old remains a key player to watch out for over the course of the tour with his ability to do it all the offensive front whether it be to create or score.

St Helens utility Jonny Lomax

Throughout a highly dominant season for the Red Vee, Lomax put together 16 tries and 21 assists in a Super League title winning effort.

He is now fighting amongst a position that already holds plenty of depth in the GB side with Jake Trueman and Jackson Hastings all viable options at stand off.

However, with his ability to play in a variety of different positions amongst the backline, expect the Saints star to see plenty of time out on the field and be a key man when looking to open up the defence.

Zak Hardaker

The last time we saw Hardaker among the international stage, it did not exactly end in the best of circumstances after personal reasons led to him being withdrawn from England’s 2013 Rugby League World Cup squad.

However, even though many will remain sceptical because of his past, it seems to be a quest for redemption Hardaker who starred for Wigan this season.

Wigan Warriors utility back Zak Hardaker

It was his goal kicking and strong ball carrying that were huge factor throughout.

The 2015 Man of Steel winner will start at centre instead of fullback on Saturday and although it may not be his most favoured position, Hardaker still has the adaptability to fit right and unleash his attacking traits down the flank.

Josh Hodgson

If you were to look at players who made the biggest difference in Canberra’s journey to the NRL Grand Final this year, then you could probably look no further than Hodgson at the hooker position.

Now, yes, Bateman was a hugely influential player in the back row but when it comes to keeping the offence ticking and making plays on the defensive side of the ball, there were fewer better than the 29-year-old.

Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson

The England and soon to be GB international plays with all the confidence and creativity of a halfback, leading the way in try assists for Ricky Stuart’s men while establishing himself defensively with the most tackles by a Raiders player and the most one on one ball strips in the entire league.


Top 10 standout players of 2019 Super League season

Warrington Wolves utility Blake Austin

As the 2019 Super League reaches its crescendo, we take a look into the top 10 players who have their presence felt over the course of the year.

Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves)

It may not have been ending that Wolves fans would have wanted to their season but the 28-year-old still has proven to be one of the buys of the year.

Fitting in perfectly at the stand off position for Warrington, Austin made his presence felt.

Over the course of the season, we have seen time and time again where the former Canberra man has been able to completely change the entire dynamic of a game.

He tore opposition defences to shreds with his expert game management and playmaking ability.

The elusive halfback had an incredible 18 tries and 11 try assists to his name before the start of the play offs and is one of four candidates for the 2019 Man of Steel.

Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils)

Another buy of the year candidate, as Hastings has undoubtedly been the main reason why Salford have been able to secure a playoff spot this year.

The 23-year-old signed a one year deal with the Red Devils before the start of the year and has been the x factor that Ian Watson’s men have so desperately needed.

Salford Devils halfback Jackson Hastings

The former Sydney and Manly halfback has been a truly effective attacking threat for Salford leading the way in try assists and run metres for the entire season.

Liam Watts (Castleford Tigers)

There has been no question that Watts has been a true enforcer for Castleford all season and so much so that he is on the shortlist for the 2019 Man of Steel.

Castleford Tigers prop Liam Watts

The 29-year-old has shown how difficult he is to stop with the ball in his hand and had the most offloads in the regular season with 62 as well as being a constant factor in defence with over 900 tackles to his name. 

Danny Houghton (Hull FC)

The 30-year-old has been the definition of a work horse for Hull FC for some time now.

His toughness at the dummy half position has consistently shown by leading the league in tackles three times out of the last four seasons.

It has been surprising to some that Houghton has not been given his chance at international level.

Hull FC Hooker Danny Houghton

Though at a position that already has strength in depth with Daryl Clark, James Roby and Josh Hodgson all ahead in the pecking order, we just may never see it.

Ultimately, this is a shame for a player who has performed at such a high level for so many years now. 

Tommy Makinson (St Helens)

The 2018 Golden Boot winner has followed on from his England heroics in last year’s test series against New Zealand with another great year on the St. Helens wing.

The 27-year-old possesses a freaky try scoring ability that has seen his name on the scoresheet on several occasions.

St Helens Tommy Makinson

He led the league in tries by the start of the playoffs with 23.

The England international continues to be a force for the Saints out on the edge and that can only mean good things with the upcoming GB tour of Australia just around the corner.

Lachlan Coote (St Helens)

The departure of Ben Barba left a relatively large hole at the Saints fullback spot.

The acquisition of Coote, however, has been somewhat of a masterstroke from Justin Holbrook.

The Scottish international has probably been one of the league leader’s best players throughout the season.

St Helens custodian Lachlan Coote

He recorded 14 tries and 21 try assists to his name, proving to be one of many valuable assets in the Saints backline that features Regan Grace, Ken Naiqama and Mark Percival among others.

The 29-year-old took over goal kicking duties at the start of the year and he has gone from strength to strength, kicking the second most goals in the regular season with 95.

The Red Vee are still one of the firm favourites to take home Super League glory this year.

If Coote continues to pull the strings and be the force we have seen, you would be a brave man to bet against them.

Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos)

Well, the 2017 Super League champions did not have the best of times this year and even found themselves in a nervy relegation battle with four other teams for the most part, believe it or not.

Leeds Rhinos young gun Ash Handley

However, one of the brighter aspects of their seasons has to be the breakout year for Ash Handley following the departure of Ryan Hall to the NRL.

The 23-year-old has looked sharp and dangerous all year for Leeds and is joint second in tries with 22.

Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves)

In a position that has held a lot of depth for England and now Great Britain once again, Clark has undoubtedly been one of the prime dummy halves.

This is not just in Super League but in the entire sport of rugby league.

Warrington Wolves hooker Daryl Clark

Although Canberra’s Josh Hodgson may still holds the keys to a potential starting role with GB, Clark is certainly waiting in the wings more than ready to take his chance.

The 2014 Man of Steel earned his place in the 2019 Super League Dream Team with 7 tries and 19 try assists.

Jonny Lomax (St Helens)

There is no doubt that Austin has done absolute wonders for Warrington throughout the course of this season.

The one thing that has probably let him down has to be an injection of consistency from time to time.

However, the same cannot be said for Lomax, who has undoubtedly been the Saints most consistent performer all season.

St Helens Jonny Lomax

So much so that he has been awarded the Albert Goldthorpe Medal for 2019. S

imilar to Austin, Lomax has been one to make things happen for St. Helens offensively.

He showed his ability to score and create opportunities with 16 tries and 21 try assists coming into the playoffs.

George Williams (Wigan Warriors)

The dynamic scrum half may be off to Canberra and the NRL come the end of the season but the 24-year-old has remained as focus as ever and been a true catalyst for Wigan.

Departing Wigan Warriors halfback George Williams

On the back of Williams’ form, Wigan has once again found themselves in the hunt for the Super League crown.

The 2019 Man of Steel nominee may be on his way down under but the is certainly making sure he goes out with a bang.

Notable mentions:

Zak Hardaker (Wigan)

Josh Jones (Salford)

Ken Naiqama (St. Helens)

Konrad Hurrell (Leeds)

Coote ‘has proven his commitment’ to Scotland

Scotland fullback Lachlan Coote

EX-SCOTLAND coach Steve McCormack has backed Lachlan Coote’s inclusion in the Great Britain squad – and revealed the full-back lost money to play for the Bravehearts.

Saints No.1 Coote was this week included in Wayne Bennett’s 29-man training panel for the Lions tour in autumn, having qualified through his Scottish ancestry.

His selection was met by criticism in some quarters because he was born and raised in Australia.

But Wiganer McCormack says the 29-year-old has more than proved his commitment to Scotland and shed light on the sacrifices he made to play for the nation during the Four Nations in 2016.

“He’d just come off the back of an NRL season, his body need fixing up but he really wanted to play for Scotland and he was immensely proud to do so,” said McCormack.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him and the commitment he showed to representing Scotland.

“He was over here for six weeks, away from his family, and he lost money to play for us.

“It would have cost him money to play for Scotland, but he was so motivated to represent his heritage, and he did with some fantastic displays.

“He’s very proud of his ancestry and he was absolutely top class, and I’m delighted he’s been selected in this squad.”

Warrington Wolves utility Blake Austin

Another Aussie – Warrington’s Blake Austin – is also in the squad, having previously been included in the England training squad because of his heritage.

McCormack, who left his role with the Warriors earlier this year for a role with the charity Rugby League Cares, coached Scotland for more than a decade before stepping down in 2017.

“I do understand the criticism of picking Australian-born players, I do – and sport is all about opinions,” he added.

“But Lachlan is eligible under the rules and as I said, he has certainly shown his commitment to Scotland.”