St George Illawarra v Hull FC: Why is there a gap between us and NRL?

Richard Agar in Illawara
Richard Agar in Illawara
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As a former Super League coach with Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity, now working for NRL club St George-Illawarra, Richard Agar is in a good position to offer a view on the differences between rugby league in England and Australia.

So, still with no World Cup success since 1972, why is it that this long-time disparity continues?

“The biggest difference I’ve seen is pretty obvious,” he said. “It’s the numbers and the sheer depth of talent.

“Illawarra itself – I know we’re St George and Illawarra – historically and still is a very, very strong area for junior rugby league.

“The local comps are strong. I could take you in my car five minutes from here and you’d see what some of the league clubs are like.

“The facilities and grounds are just so impressive. Rugby league is a massive sport in this country; every junior rugby kid wants to play in the NRL.

“The weight of numbers they have above us in each of the respective age groups is just phenomenal.

“You ally that to New Zealand not too far away and Queensland and New South Wales Country rugby league... it’s just an enormous geographical and demographical area to go and find players.”

Agar was at Warrinton Wolves last year when they finished in the Qualifiers – despite winning the League Leaders’ Shield and reaching a Grand Final the season before.

“After that Grand Final, some of our players then toddled off and played international footy,” he said.

“They came home early December, had a couple of weeks off at Christmas, and were back into it the first of January. These guys here, before Christmas, get eight weeks off.”

“There’s two weeks off at Christmas. No Boxing Day games. The internationals then come back and still have six, seven or eight weeks off; some players have had 12 or 14 weeks off and a minimum eight.

“If you’re a successful player – and I’ll use (Warrington and England prop) Chris Hill as an example who plays a lot of minutes – just look at the difference in workloads on the players and the amount of preparation times...

“Pre-season here at this time of year there won’t be too many bad spells in terms of weather either. Just everything is in their favour.

“But I’m still a big believer a lot of English kids would come over here and thrive in these conditions. If they can handle being away from home.”

Dave Craven is on tour with Hull FC in association with