GIVEN he has gone to great lengths to keep his Yorkshire accent, it should be no surprise that exiled England star Gareth Ellis wants to finish his career back home despite all the accolades he has won in Australia.
The formidable second-row has just completed another excellent campaign with Wests Tigers, winning the Sydney club’s player of the year for an unprecedented third season in a row.
His Wests’ coach Tim Sheens admits if the former Leeds Rhinos player was an Australian he would be in his Kangaroos Test side over here now for the Gillette Four Nations, while much-vaunted club colleague Benji Marshall, the mercurial New Zealand stand-off and captain, goes as far to say the rugged Yorkshireman is the best player he has lined up alongside.
Such illustrious praise is commonplace for one of the UK’s finest exports Down Under following the manner in which he has tackled the ultra-competitive NRL head on and come out the other side still firing.
However, Ellis – preparing for England’s opener against Wales on Saturday – insists he will turn his back on all the glory, lifestyle and respect to round off his playing days in Super League.
He will be 32 when his current contract expires at the end of 2013 but everyone will still be clamouring for his services.
“It surprises people that have asked me ‘are you going to stay here?’, especially people over in Australia, that I’m pretty adamant that I won’t,” said Ellis, his Castleford accent still undiminished despite three years on the other side of the world.
“I’ve another couple of years left at Tigers – I re-signed last year – and as I see my career panning out I’d like to come back and finish my career off over here.
“I never went with the intention of staying. I always thought I’d go out there, do what I had to do and come back and that hasn’t changed.
“I’m really enjoying what I’m doing, it’s a great opportunity and hopefully in another couple of years I’ll try and lift the trophy but I definitely see myself coming back when that’s over.”
The obvious choice would be a return to Leeds where he won two Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge during four commanding seasons.
“People keep saying where would I go but I’ve got no sort of ties with anyone really,” he insisted.
“I was born in Castleford, grew up in Selby, played for Wakefield, then went to Leeds.
“I was a Cas supporter and used to follow them home and away but I wasn’t good enough for them when I first started.”
His first priority is helping England fulfil their potential to finally win a major tournament for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Since his own debut with Great Britain in 2003, while still at Trinity, Ellis feels this is the best prepared international squad to achieve that aim.
“With the programme the staff have put in place over the year and the things provided for us, it’s a step up from anything I’ve ever experienced before in terms of professionalism,” he said from their training base at Loughborough University.
“It’s time we repaid that and stood up to the mark.
“In reality we are ranked third in the world but I’m not sure the other teams above us (Australia and New Zealand) will be doing as much as we’re doing.
“If England stick at it for long enough periods that gap will get smaller in the long run and we will catch them up.”
Ellis – who will marry his fiancée Rachel near Wetherby on December 3 – says it would make his life easier for his return to Sydney where England’s continued failure leaves him open to occasional ridicule.
“I think we’re playing with a generation now who have never really seen England do anything,” he says.
“They can be a bit ignorant towards us as they’ve not really seen much of us but, trust me, it’d be nice to spring a few surprises this time around when I go back.
“They really rate us as individuals and nearly everyone in this squad would do well over there.
“But, as a team, that lack of success probably contributes to where we stand in their regard.”
Ellis was typically robust in England’s 32-18 friendly win over France last Friday, their sole preparation before the opener against 100-1 underdogs Wales at Leigh.
“The talent Lee Briers has got is unquestionable and he’ll be key for them while, if they are going to get a shock (win), Wales will be viewing this as probably the one for them,” added Ellis, who, despite his evocative name, has no Welsh ancestry of his own.
And, finally, how has he managed to avoid gaining an Australian twang?
“I do my best,” he says. “And if anyone ever hears me speak in an Australian accent please tell me because I’ll put a stop to it straight away.”