If you’re from the Old Dart and follow rugby league you would be a pretty happy chappie at the moment. I can just see it now, rugby league fans in the UK kicked back with a cup of tea looking at re-runs of the NRL Grand Final satisfied that their fellow countrymen have been a huge success in the NRL.
It has been a long time since players from the North of England have made such a big impact in the National Rugby League. The NRL Grand Final saw the Burgess brothers take on fellow Englishman James Graham. The game itself has created its own little piece of English rugby league history. The incident that happened in the opening minutes and the heroics that were to follow might even see Sam Burgess and James Graham become household names for generations to come.
The NRL Grand Final in many ways was all about South Sydney in the lead-up but it also had a English twist to it. You just had to look at all the major Sydney and Brisbane papers to see how they played on the British rivalry in the lead-up to the big match. Now that the English have conquered the NRL what’s next?
Just in case you missed it because you’re still hung over from the NRL Grand Final. The Rugby League Four Nations involving Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and England kicks-off on Saturday October the 25th in Brisbane. You know where I am going with this don’t you?
Yes! The Poms have a chance this year. Some would say the best chance of winning the Four Nations since the concept started as the Tri-Nations back in 1999. Let’s see what the English have going for them in this year’s tournament.
The first thing going for England is the number of players in their Four Nations squad who currently play in the NRL (George Burgess, Tom Burgess, Mike Cooper, James Graham, Sam Tomkins, Gareth Widdop). These players have in their own way made a positive impact in the NRL and it is always good to have insider information when taking on players who ply their trade in the NRL.
The second thing England have going for them is the increasing quality of the Super League and the professional setup now in place at the top level for England’s National Team. England were only 5 minutes away from last year’s World Cup final. It all came down to a unbelievable try from New Zealand to take that away from England in the final minutes of the World Cup semi-final. The English players will be dirty about how they were so close and Steve McNamara the English Coach will be drilling into his team how important it is to play for the full 80 minutes which has always been England’s Achilles heel.
The third thing the English have going for them is the poor old Aussies are falling apart at the seams. Players a dropping out left, right and centre and Australia could be fielding their most inexperienced team since 1907. Tim Sheens must be scratching his head after fielding a near full strength team earlier in the year during the ANZAC test. If the Poms are going to ambush the Aussies now is the time.
The fourth and final thing England have going for them is they won’t need to line up against Sonny Bill Williams when they take on New Zealand. SBW is off to Rugby and the New Zealand team will be a little weaker for it. It’s not just what SBW does on the field but the influence he has off it. England have always done well against the Kiwis and with no SBW they might even have the psychological advantage.
If the England really want to put their head print….I mean foot print on rugby league in 2014, then they must win the 2014 Rugby League Four Nations. If England do manage to win the Four Nations no one in rugby league circles will argue that 2014 is truly the year of the Pom!