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|
|SALFORD RED DEVILS||7||115||22||32|
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 email@example.com
|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|