THE success of English players who have ventured to the NRL to test their quality was further underlined yesterday when three current internationals earned notable honours at the 2014 Dally M Awards in Sydney.
Ex-Bradford Bulls star Sam Burgess, the Yorkshireman who unfortunately for the code will move to Bath in the coming weeks, was named the NRL’s top lock (loose forward) for his brilliant performances in guiding South Sydney to a first Grand Final in 43 years.
England team-mate James Graham won the prop of the year award for his fulsome displays up front for Canterbury, who face Souths in that final this Sunday.
Burgess, 25, also came third in the running for the main prize, the prestigious Dally M medal for the competition’s finest player.
This was shared for the first time with Kangaroos stand-off Johnathan Thurston – who joined Andrew Johns as the only player to have won the award three times – and Jarryd Hayne declared joint-winners.
Furthermore, St George-Illawarra stand-off Gareth Widdop, who hails from Halifax and is expected to be England’s main playmaker at the Four Nations next month, was in the NRL’s top five, coming fourth behind Burgess.
Widdop’s club colleague Mike Cooper, meanwhile, has thrived during his first season in Sydney since leaving Warrington Wolves and the uncapped forward could be called up when McNamara names his squad on Sunday.
Castleford Tigers hooker Daryl Clark, 21, is also hoping to get the nod for the first time after his superb campaign.
Ahead of Super League’s own awards night a week tomorrow, he is shortlisted for both the Steve Prescott Man of Steel and Young Player of the Year. He joins Warrington for £185,000 now but is adamant Castleford – who reached the Challenge Cup final and earned their finest Super League finish – can improve on their heroics of 2014 without him and other departing stars such as Craig Huby and Marc Sneyd.
“They’ve made some great signings and proven this year –coming from near bottom to turn it around in great style – how good they are so I’m confident they’ll do well in the future,” said Clark. “I hope my own game goes to another level at Wolves, but I’ll just concentrate on working hard.”
Catalan Dragons have re-signed France prop Remi Casty from Sydney Roosters on a four-year deal – 12 months after he left.
Championship One club York City Knights have not renewed the contract of coach Gary Thornton despite them finishing top.
Consecutive play-off defeats meant they missed promotion.