Written by Zack Wilson
Photo by Getty Images
An interview in Wales drew my attention recently, when former Wales and British & Irish Lions rugby union star Gavin Henson spoke to the BBC’s Scrum V programme.
The bloke carrying out the interview was former Widnes, Warrington and Great Britain legend Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies, so there was a strong rugby league connection.
It was revealed during the interview that Henson’s main regret from his career was not having tried the 13-man game.
He also revealed that Iestyn Harris was among the people interested in bringing him across the great code divide.
“Probably not having a go at rugby league,” Henson replied, when asked by Davies what the greatest regret of his career was.
“I used to watch it quite a lot, so much that I thought, ‘I want to play that.’
“But then I thought no, I can’t, I’ve got to stay in union.
“I think I would have enjoyed it, and going on, I would have learned a lot, because every league coach I’ve been under, I’ve learned so much from them.
“I think I would have learned a lot from that game, if I am to go on to coaching after rugby.”
Although Henson did not reveal the names of any rugby league clubs who were interested in signing him, he did reveal that it was more than one.
“A few back in the day,” he said.
“Iestyn Harris was keen when he was with Wales.”
The fact that Henson didn’t jump codes drives to the heart of the issues that currently face rugby league in the UK.
If Super League had the spending power of the NRL, Henson might have received enough financial temptation to join the 13-man code.
The greater physical challenge of our game means that top union players need a real financial incentive to jump across the divide.
In the UK game as things stand, there is no chance of offering the likes of Henson enough money to embrace the challenge of our game.
Now that the marquee player rule has come into operation, a team might take a risk on a big star.
But it would be a big chance to take. After all, remember Andy Powell at Wigan?
But one senses that the moment for signing top union players has passed, really.
That is a shame from a development point of view. Big signings from the other code were always a good way of generating headlines in days gone by.
Our sport needs to be aiming to be big and wealthy enough to attract stars from union like Henson.
A British equivalent to Sonny Bill Williams, who ideally would come from one of the Celtic countries, is wishing for too much, perhaps, but imagine what they could do for the profile of rugby league right now.
Shaun Edwards recently hinted that he has his eye on some Welsh union players for when he becomes Wigan coach.
If the Warriors do try and sign some big names from Wales, it might just be a sign that our sport is back on the way up.