Kallum Watkins tipped to follow in John Bateman’s NRL footsteps

GREAT BRITAIN coach Wayne Bennett has expressed his belief that anyone in his England squad could make the grade in the NRL.

IMPACT: John Bateman celebrates victory over New Zealand last November. Picture:Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Leeds Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins moves to Gold Coast Titans on July 1, becoming the latest Super League star to head Down Under.

He will become the 10th current England international operating in the NRL. Wigan Warriors back-row John Bateman joined Canberra Raiders this term and has been hailed as one of the competition’s biggest hits in 2019.

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Uncapped Wigan team-mate Ryan Sutton went with him to the Australian capital and has proved a revelation himself.

HEADING OUT: Leeds Rhinos' Kallum Watkins. Picture: SWPix.com

But Bennett, the Australian who has Burgess brothers Sam, George and Tom under his command at South Sydney, said: “I’ve said to these guys here – I’ll be quite candid with you all – the guys that play for England, there’s not one that couldn’t play regular first-grade in the NRL.

“Not one of them. It’s been proved again with Bateman and Sutton turning up.

“They just don’t get the raps they probably deserve. But if we can win more games at Test level they will. John Bateman’s just got everybody enraptured by the way he plays, and he’s a guy that did a great job for me in the centres and on the edge. We all know what Bateman brings if you’ve played with him or coached him.

“Sutton’s been doing well over there, too.”

Having won everything there is to win in the domestic game here, centre Watkins has endured a difficult campaign on his return from an ACL and has found himself playing second-row in recent weeks. But there is no doubting the 28-year-old’s talent and Bennett – who has worked with him at England since 2016 – hopes he will flourish further in the NRL.

“I’m really pleased for Kallum,” he said, about a player who has scored 12 tries in 25 Tests since and played in the World Cup final two years ago.

“I noticed with Kallum the higher the standard of game we (England) played in, the higher he lifted himself, and I just think he needs that level of competition over there every week to just see how good he really is.

“He’s a wonderful player who’s had a bit of a tough time with it with a knee reconstruction.

“Regardless of what we may feel as coaches it takes them at least another 12 months from rehab to get back to their best. Titans will be good for him. It – and the comp’ – will challenge him.”