Written by Callum Walker
Both Huddersfield and Hull FC have added to their squads in the past week with the Giants signing Canterbury’s Jack Cogger and the Airlie Birds recruiting Josh Reynolds from the Wests Tigers.
But that left a lot of people questioning as to why either club haven’t been looking close to home in order to bolster their squads. In fact, there are just two sides in the Super League that have an English halfback partnership – Castleford and Hull KR.
So just why are top-flight sides looking abroad? It’s all rather simple really: because the plethora of quality Down Under is far superior than that within the UK. The expansion of NRL feeder clubs has helped considerably in this respect with players able to get used to the pace of rugby league in incredibly competitive competitions before making the move to the first-team.
NRL players are unable to make their debuts until the age of 18 to protect the younger stars from both physical and emotional injury. And, whilst the reserve grade in the southern hemisphere offers a distinct route through from scholarship to NRL, the lack of a similar reserves system for rugby league in the UK has harmed the development of players that have otherwise been lost to the game.
There is also the idea that NRL clubs are willing to give younger players a chance – more so than Super League sides. For example, Wigan’s Harry Rushton has made the move to Canberra having made just one first-team appearance for the Warriors – likewise with Castleford’s Bailey Hodgson who is heading to Newcastle next season too.
Of course, the Wigan setup has nurtured through Harry Smith in the halves, Castleford with Jake Trueman and St Helens with Danny Richardson. But, this is a pitiful effort compared to the likes of Jarome Luai, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Lachlan Lewis and Nathan Cleary.