MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11: Sia Soliola (R) of St Helens celebrates in front of Saints fans after his sides 14-6 victory during the First Utility Super League Grand Final match between St Helens and Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford on October 11, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

In Leeds, St Helens, Wigan, Sheffield, Hull, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Barrow, Dewsbury, Warrington and many more, rugby league was born. It has spread into Southern England, into Wales and France and (with the surprise addition of a team from Toronto, Canada) into North America.

Rugby league also thrives, in Australasia via the NRL and the two state competitions.

Happily for league lovers both competitions are expanding and professional rugby league players are in demand.  Historically players have moved from England to Australia and vice versa to extend careers and or build on already established reputations.

Growing up in Sydney in the 60’s and 70’s I watched well known English players who moved down under to bolster local teams after playing for their clubs and National teams in England.

This included players like Malcom Reilly (Manly), Mick Stephenson (Penrith), John Gray (Norths & Manly) and Tommy Bishop at my club (Cronulla). I was mostly unaware of or paid little attention to Australian players who went the other way, but I now know that Parramatta superstars Peter Sterling (Hull FC) and Brett Kenny (Wigan) had seasons in England.  Prior to Super League, players could play in Sydney and then fly to Britain and play in the northern winter.

However, since 1996, rugby league in England has been played from February to October coinciding with the NRL competition in Australia, so it’s no longer possible to play a full season in each hemisphere. However the change in seasons did not stop Australian players going to Western Europe to play Rugby League, in fact the numbers have exploded in recent years.

This year seventy three (73) Australian & NZ born ex-NRL players, played in the Super League and a further 31 played for teams in the Championship Division.  (Three players, ex-Tiger Bodene Thompson, former Titan Nathaniel Peteru and Knights centre Peter Mata’utia played for teams in both divisions.)

The figures show clearly that these ex-NRL players had a significant impact on the ESL. The Australian and New Zealand players participated in 1320 matches across 12 ESL teams.   Together they scored 314 tries and kicked 161 goals.   In the Championship Division, 31 individuals played in 441 matches and collectively scored 125 tries and 117 goals.

European fans trying to judge the benefit of the ex-NRL players to their team can look at the statistics and decide for themselves.

St Helens finished 1st in the league with 4 ex-NRL players.  Cronulla fullback Ben Barba (26), Titans prop Luke Douglas (29), former Knights Lock Zeb Taia (28) and Storm Centre Ryan Morgan (19) together played 102 matches scoring 51 tries.

Over at 2nd placed Wigan they had ex-Storm forward William Isa (28) who played his 182nd Super League match in his 8th year while New Zealand International Thomas Leuluai (28) edged closer to 300 Super League matches in his 8th year at the Warriors. Ex Eels centre Taulima Tautai (22) played his 6th year of ESL at Wigan.  Technically the Saints had 4 ex-NRL players as Frank-Paul Nuuausala played 1 match, before being granted a release to move back to Sydney.  Their 79 matches produced 9 tries.

Wakefield Trinity fielded 7 ex-NRL players, who together, played 183 matches. The team finished 7th, with the ex- NRL players scoring 43 tries.

Catalan Dragons finished in 8th position with 8 ex-NRL players on their books, the most of any ESL team. Those players played 155 matches and scored 46 tries.

The table below shows the numbers of ex-NRL players at each club and how many tries and goals were scored.

ESL Team Ex – NRL Players Matches Tries Goals
St Helens Saints 4 102 51 0
Wigan Warriors 4 79 9 0
Castleford Tigers 4 80 11 0
Warrington Wolves 7 117 28 58
Huddersfield Giants 6 96 10 4
HULL F.C. 7 148 46 4
Wakefield Trinity 7 183 43 1
Catalan Dragons 8 155 46 39
HULL K.R. 7 98 25 0
Widnes Vikings 7 87 17 23


Below is the full list of players who played in the European Super League.  I have compilations on each player and complete data from every ESL and Championship Match they played in.

Requests for individual or team data sets can be emailed to


ESL TEAM Players Names Place of Birth / Nationality 2018 Matches
Castleford Tigers Junior Moors Auckland, NZ 25
Castleford Tigers Jesse Sene-Lafao Wellington, NZ 21
Castleford Tigers Ben Roberts Westmead, NSW 17
Castleford Tigers Peter Mata’utia Bankstown, NSW 8
Catalan Dragons Brayden Wiliame Gosford, NSW 28
Catalan Dragons David Mead Port Moresby, PNG 27
Catalan Dragons Greg Bird Newcastle, NSW 25
Catalan Dragons Sam Moa Tonga 20
Catalan Dragons Samisoni Langi Auburn, NSW 18
Catalan Dragons Joshua Drinkwater Sydney, NSW 17
Catalan Dragons Kenny Edwards Wanganui, NZ 13
Catalan Dragons Paul Aiton Mount Hagen, PNG 7
Huddersfield Giants Ryan Hinchcliffe Temora, NSW 29
Huddersfield Giants Jordan Rankin Golld Coast, QLD 27
Huddersfield Giants Sebastine Ikahihifo Auckland, NZ 18
Huddersfield Giants Jake Mamo Gosford, NSW 14
Huddersfield Giants Suaia Matagi Auckland, NZ 7
Huddersfield Giants Tom Symonds Paddington, NSW 1
HULL F.C. Bureta Faraimo Wellington, NZ 26
HULL F.C. Carlos Tuimavave Auckland, NZ 24
HULL F.C. Mickey Paea Sydney, NSW 24
HULL F.C. Fetuli Talanoa Auckland, NZ 23
HULL F.C. Mark Minichiello Liverpool, NSW 21
HULL F.C. Sika Manu Wellington, NZ 16
HULL F.C. Albert Kelly Macksville, NSW 14
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS Mose Masoe Wellington, NZ 22
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS Maurice Blair Maryborough, QLD 22
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS Adam Quinlan Kogarah, NSW 21
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS Justin Carney Trangie, NSW 15
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS Taioalo Vaivai Auckland, NZ 11
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS Andrew Heffernan Wagga Wagga, NSW 7
LEEDS RHINOS Joel Moon Caloundra, QLD 18
LEEDS RHINOS Adam Cuthbertson Avalon, NSW 15
LEEDS RHINOS Brett Delaney Sydney, NSW 15
LEEDS RHINOS Mitch Garbutt Newcastle, NSW 8
LEEDS RHINOS Nathaniel Peteru Auckland, NZ 4
SALFORD RED DEVILS Junior Sa’u Auckland, NZ 23
SALFORD RED DEVILS Robert Lui Townsville, QLD 21
SALFORD RED DEVILS Lama Tasi Auckland, NZ 21
SALFORD RED DEVILS Jack Littlejohn Wagga Wagga, NSW 18
SALFORD RED DEVILS Ben Nakubuwai Leeton, NSW 18
SALFORD RED DEVILS Weller Hauraki Wanganui, NZ 13
SALFORD RED DEVILS Jackson Hastings Wollongong, NSW 1
St Helens Saints Luke Douglas Yamba, NSW 29
St Helens Saints Zeb Taia Auburn, NSW 28
St Helens Saints Ben Barba Darwin, NT 26
St Helens Saints Ryan Morgan Sydney, NSW 19
Wakefield Trinity Tinirau Arona Dunedin, NZ 31
Wakefield Trinity Bill Tupou Auckland, NZ 30
Wakefield Trinity Jacob Miller Sydney, NSW 29
Wakefield Trinity Pauli Pauli Bankstown, NSW 27
Wakefield Trinity Tyler Randell Scone, NSW 24
Wakefield Trinity Justin Horo Auckland, NZ 23
Wakefield Trinity David Fifita Blacktown, NSW 19
Warrington Wolves Bryson Goodwin Parkes, NSW 26
Warrington Wolves Tyrone Roberts Grafton, NSW 26
Warrington Wolves Sitaleki Akauola Auckland, NZ 21
Warrington Wolves Ben Murdoch-Masila Auckland, NZ 20
Warrington Wolves Mitch Brown Sutherland, NSW 11
Warrington Wolves Ben Pomeroy Penrith, NSW 8
Warrington Wolves Bodene Thompson Bay of Plenty, NZ 5
Widnes Vikings Aaron Heremaia Auckland, NZ 19
Widnes Vikings Rhys Hanbury Wollongong, NSW 17
Widnes Vikings Krisnan Inu Auckland, NZ 13
Widnes Vikings Wellington Albert Mendi, PNG 11
Widnes Vikings Patrick Ah Van Auckland, NZ 10
Widnes Vikings Chris Houston Narooma, NSW 10
Widnes Vikings Weller Hauraki Wanganui, NZ 7
Wigan Warriors Thomas Leuluai Auckland, NZ 28
Wigan Warriors William Isa Auckland, NZ 28
Wigan Warriors Taulima Tautai Liverpool, NSW 22
Wigan Warriors Frank-Paul Nuuausala Southland, NZ 1



London Broncos Api Pewwhairangi Palmerston North NZ 19
Toronto Wolfpack Ashton Sims Sutherland NSW 27
Rochdale Hornets Ben Pomeroy Penrith NSW 1
Leigh Centurions Bodene Thompson Bay of Plenty NZ 24
Toronto Wolfpack Chase Stanley Sydney NSW 19
Toulouse Olympique Chris Centrone Newcastle NSW 16
Toronto Wolfpack Cory Paterson Perth WA 18
Leigh Centurions Daniel Mortimer Sydney NSW 12
Toronto Wolfpack Darcy Lussick Manly NSW 18
Leigh Centurions Drew Hutchison Wollongong NSW 35
Toulouse Olympique Eddy Pettybourne Christchurch NZ 10
Toronto Wolfpack Jack Buchanan Culburra Beach NSW 28
London Broncos Jarrod Sammut Blacktown NSW 28
Toronto Wolfpack Josh McCrone Temora NSW 30
Leigh Centurions Kurt Baptiste Brisbane QLD 1
Leigh Centurions Kyle Lovett Leichardt NSW 10
London Broncos Mark Ioane Auckland NZ 28
Featherstone Rovers Misi Taulapapa Auckland NZ 29
Featherstone Rovers Nathaniel Peteru Auckland NZ 1
Leigh Centurions Paterika Vaivai Samoa 9
Leigh Centurions Peter Mata’utia Bankstown NSW 20
Toronto Wolfpack Quentin Laulu-Togagae Auckland NZ 8
Toronto Wolfpack Reni Maitua Sydney NSW 8
Toulouse Olympique Sam Rapira Auckland NZ 15


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