When it comes to Englishmen heading to the NRL in recent history, there’s been some mixed results. While some of the strongest players in the competition are English, their position often determines their success. Whether they’re a back or a forward. And in 2017, Dan Sarginson is looking to flip the trend.
In the last decade, the likes of the Burgess brothers, Gareth Ellis, James Graham, Elliot Whitehead and Josh Hodgson have proven to be some of the best players across the league. Besides being born in Britain, they all have one thing in common – they’re forwards. But when it comes to backs coming across to Australia, it’s a different story.
Sam Tomkins and Zak Hardaker are two prime examples of the back’s bad fortunes in the NRL, and both have a lot in common. Both are fullbacks. Both have played international football for England. Both have won the Man Of Steel, the Super League’s equivalent of the Dally M. And both fell way below expectations in their stints in the NRL. Sam Tomkins carried some of the biggest expectations around an English import in recent memory, the media comparing him to Billy Slater.
Having scored 144 tries in 151 games for the Wigan Warriors, there was a lot to expect from Tomkins. But on arrival to the NRL with the New Zealand Warriors, Tomkins struggled with the pace of the league. After just two seasons in New Zealand, Tomkins returned to former club Wigan.
Zak Hardaker endured a similar fate. Signing with Penrith mid-way through 2016, Hardaker was a regular in the Panther’s team – from the bench. Hardaker struggled to make an impact from the interchange, scoring 1 try in 11 games before signing on with Castleford for 2017.
The recent failings of such high achievers doesn’t bode well for new Titan’s recruit Dan Sarginson, who joins the Gold Coast on a two-year contract. The difference between Sarginson is he isn’t the try-scoring, dynamic style of player that had so often failed in the NRL. No, Sarginson based his game around defence. His one-on-one defence was especially strong, so strong he earned a spot in the 2014 Four Nations squad for England, playing in two matches.
Sarginson’s biggest hurdle will be the pace of the NRL compared to the Super League, a big contributor to the failure of other English backs. Faster, stronger opponents will prove a challenge, but with a lock on the Titan’s left centre position following the exit of Josh Hoffman, David Mead, Nene Macdonald and Brian Kelly, Sarginson will have time to adjust to the NRL. And if all goes to plan, buck the trend of English backs.
Sarginson has begun pre-season training on the Gold Coast, and after being rested for the Auckland Nines, will look to cement a spot in the Titan’s backline featuring international superstars Jarryd Hayne and Konrad Hurrell.