ANDY LAST, our assistant coach at Hull FC, was speaking to Tim Sheens recently and hearing how – when coach of that great Canberra Raiders side around the late 80s/early 90s – he put the side together.
If you remember, it was an outstanding team with the likes of Mal Meninga, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Steve Walters and Gary Belcher.
However, a large chunk of that Canberra side were actually Queenslanders.
Tim’s thinking was – and this is no disrespect to Canberra – how given it’s not a glamorous place, the club found it hard to attract Sydney-based players; players normally wanted to go to Sydney or Brisbane. So what he did was make a concerted effort to get Brisbane lads in and make a bit of a family there so they could pull on each other and support each other at the Raiders.
With Ricky Stuart now being the coach of Canberra himself, Tim mentioned how it looks like he is doing the same sort of thing now with the English lads he’s bringing in.
You can see his point. They have Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead already, and have added John Bateman and Ryan Sutton for this season while, if the talk is to be believed, George Williams could be the next Englishman heading out there.
That’s a really good core of quality players. And they will stick together as they’re English. It will be interesting to see how it all develops out for them.
As for whether Williams does go, only he can decide if it’s right for him and – if he has one – his family. Knowing how much I enjoyed it over there with Wests Tigers, if someone from our club said ‘I’m thinking about doing this (NRL), what do you think?’ it’d be hard for me to look them in the eye saying he shouldn’t and he should stay at Hull.
That’s because I know how much I loved it, not just from a rugby point of view but life experience, too; in my career, it’s something that sticks out as a point of difference for me those four years at Wests Tigers.
Meeting so many different people, living in a different country and a totally different way of life while obviously it probably did raise my standing within the game as I went and did alright while I was over there.
There’s a lot to gain from going over and playing NRL but I suppose a lot to lose as well.
Only the player himself can choose if it’s right for him.
There’s no point going out if you have a wife or girlfriend who doesn’t really want to go as I guarantee by three or four months they will be homesick.
It’s easy as a player as you get thrown in with 25/30 blokes all on the same pathway wanting the same thing – to be the most successful team you can be.
But the wife/girlfriend is in a new home and making her own way whether working or finding friends. It’s the package that you have to look at and things like am I the sort of person who likes to go have dinner with my mum and dad every Sunday?
If you’re going to do it, don’t go in half-hearted. I think the majority, if not all, of the England team would quite easily fit in in the NRL and do quite well.
Bateman will be absolutely brilliant; he’s made for it particularly as every game is on TV so people will get to see him every week and that high level of performance he brings.
He’ll get the plaudits that deserves and I think he’ll be an absolute superstar over there. But it’s true, it’s not for everyone.