ENGLAND coach Steve McNamara last night said Castleford Tigers youngster Daryl Clark could be the game’s next superstar following Sam Burgess’s switch to rugby union.
Clark, 21, will be in the running this evening to become the first player in 30 years to win both the Steve Prescott Man of Steel and Young Player of the Year awards in the same season.
The dynamic hooker – hoping to emulate the feat of Widnes’s Joe Lydon (1984) and Leeds’s David Ward (1977) – has also been called up for the first time to England’s Four Nations squad that departs to Australia on Tuesday.
McNamara has, of course, lost the services of talisman Burgess, who signed off his rugby league career with a remarkable man-of-the-match performance in South Sydney’s National RL Grand Final win over Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday.
Burgess, given his senior debut in 2006 when McNamara was his Bradford Bulls coach, defied a fractured cheekbone and broken eye socket suffered after just six seconds to lead them home.
The heroic loose forward, 25, now joins Bath on a three-year deal, but his ex-England coach prefers to look on the positive and sees his move as a chance for someone else to thrive.
“That mantle is there for the next English superstar to come and attain,” he said.
“We’ve already got some players who are fighting very hard for that.
“The performance of (Canterbury’s) James Graham throughout the whole of the season and again in the Grand Final suggests he is right up there with the very best players in world rugby league.
“But I think the emergence of another young English talent playing in Super League is there to be seen when you look at the performances of people like Daryl Clark.
“He’s probably a little bit unknown (in Australia) – there’s one or two people in the know who know a fair bit on him.
“But the players who will come up against him in Australia and New Zealand aren’t going to know too much.
“There is opportunity for Daryl – or someone like him – to take that (Burgess mantle) on.
“With his form and pace and the energy he’ll bring to the group, he will be really good in the tournament.”
McNamara expects Dewsbury-born Burgess to return to league.
“I think at some stage he will be back playing the game and I certainly hope so,” he said.
“He is genuine world-class so is going to be missed, but the team moves on and everyone takes up some of the slack.”