It’s Grand to see English lads in NRL Final - Gareth Ellis

John Bateman of Canberra Raiders. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
John Bateman of Canberra Raiders. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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It’s brilliant to see so many English lads set to play in the NRL Grand Final – the showpiece event of rugby league.

We always talk about how the NRL is the pinnacle and – over here – we aspire to be like that given the popularity that competition has. We’ll see just how popular it is when that final is played out in Sydney on Sunday.

It’s no surprise to me to see them doing so well; the way they play the game suits the toughness of them as back-rows.

Gareth Ellis

But to have so many of our lads playing in it for Canberra Raiders, really is great for the England national team.

To be playing at that level, at that intensity and under that sort of blowtorch of an atmosphere they will experience, against a team as good as Sydney Roosters, it’s something everyone hopes to achieve.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how they do. Going into it, it’s certainly something I wish I’d got to play in an Australian Grand Final and, even more importantly, actually win one. It’d have been absolutely unbelievable.

Moz (Adrian Morley) did it (with Roosters in 2002), the Burgess boys went on to do it (with South Sydney in 2014) after I’d come home but I never got that chance.

I wish I had but we got knocked out in two semis with Wests Tigers.

I know how few and far between these opportunities are for some clubs – it’s 25 years since Canberra last got there – and so it will be great for the Canberra lads Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman. Hopefully we’ll see them win it.

As a former back-row myself, I did a column a few months ago about how I thought Bateman would go in his first year in the NRL.

I said then that I thought he’d go really well knowing the type of player he is and the type of competition the NRL is. I thought he’d excel in those conditions and he clearly has.

I’m sure he’ll have a cracking game and the other back-row – Whitehead – is someone I’ve admired for a long time.

Since I came back from Australia I played for Hull against Catalans and remember being really impressed with him. You speak about battles and he’s certainly someone who gave me a really tough one when we played against each other.

It’s no surprise to me to see them doing so well; the way they play the game suits the toughness of them as back-rows. I’d like to see Canberra win it with that England representation but I thought their best chance to do so was if Melbourne beat Roosters in the other semi on Saturday.

Obviously they’d beaten Melbourne just over a week ago and I’d fancy them to do it again while, conversely, I thought Melbourne were the only team who could probably beat the Roosters.

But the Roosters beat Storm and, if I was a betting man, I’d be going for them again this week. I just think the team from one to 17 is world-class.

You have internationals and world-class players playing at the top of their game. Canberra do as well but the experience the Roosters boys have got will leave them in good sted albeit I hope that I’m wrong.