Dave Craven: Tomkins returning with legendary potential unfulfilled

I AM sure I am not the only person slightly disappointed to see Sam Tomkins returning to Super League in 2016.
The return of Wigan's Sam TomkinsThe return of Wigan's Sam Tomkins
The return of Wigan's Sam Tomkins

Do not get me wrong; of course I’m elated that I will be able to see his brilliance light up the competition once more and marvel at those sometimes sublime skills when he rejoins Wigan Warriors from New Zealand Warriors.

It is a massive fillip for the competition that the England full-back – one of the few genuine high-profile rugby league talents from these shores – will bring his verve and charisma back to grounds all the way from Headingley to Halliwell.

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Super League can ill-afford to lose the assets of someone I have rated as possibly the most exciting English talent since Jason Robinson or even as far back as Ellery Hanley in the early Eighties.

Sam Tomkins on his way back to Wigan.Sam Tomkins on his way back to Wigan.
Sam Tomkins on his way back to Wigan.

But all of that aside, a part of me thinks Tomkins has let down both himself and the sport here, too, by seeking the move back after just two years in the NRL.

He signed a three-year deal in Auckland and it is safe to say his first season there was not always slick by his high standards.

Granted, Tomkins scored 13 tries, created the same amount again and made 108 tackle breaks, the fourth best in the competition.

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But it was still restrained compared to his Super League returns and some critics argued did not get near enough to the levels expected of someone who cost a world-record fee of £700,000.

He has impressed more this time around but he has never really threatened to hit the heights of Sam Burgess or Adrian Morley when, realistically, he had every chance of doing so. He says he is “homesick” and admittedly it is hard to comment on that without being in those very same circumstances personally.

But I, for one, felt Tomkins had more about his character to let that affect him; at 26, it is not like he is some young kid regretfully making a big move halfway around the world and, similarly, he is being well remunerated to take up the opportunityabout which most players can only dream.

Maybe he is just not good enough to truly cut it at the NRL level. We will not really know now.

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It was a masterstroke by Wigan to announce the worst-kept secret – his return – on the big screen at the DW Stadium on Thursday during half-time in their game against Warrington.

It certainly took some of the expected pressure away from Ben Flower as the Welsh prop made his playing return after completing a six-month ban for that infamous attack on Lance Hohaia in last season’s Grand Final.

Friday’s press was more awash with the buzz of Tomkins’s appearance than Flower’s involvement.

Indeed, it will be terrific to see him live – and not beamed in from New Zealand on a giant screen – in those Cherry and White colours next season.

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But, for me, I do not think Tomkins will ever now truly reach the greatness of Hanley, who ruled in Australia, or Robinson, who though never heading Down Under in league did rule the world in union to show his own mental toughness.

The only way he may ascertain that legendary status is if he inspires an elusive maiden Grand Final win for the Warriors.

Or he recaptures his best in international colours and leads England to a World Cup triumph or Ashes series glory.

I, for one, hope Tomkins can achieve both – and shut me up.