Scotland have added two young players from Australia’s NRL to their provisional Rugby League World Cup squad. James Bell of New Zealand Warriors and South Sydney Rabbitohs’ winger Campbell Graham both made their NRL debuts last week and have been drafted into the Bravehearts player pool for the tournament down under in October.
“We are always watching a number of Scottish qualified players at clubs in the UK, Australia and New Zealand,” said head coach Steve McCormack. “We’ve known about them since last year and have been really pleased to see the progress that James and Campbell have been making. It was great to see them make their NRL debuts within a few days of each other.”
A giant winger, 18-year-old Graham is still a sports student at Randwick’s Marcellin College and has been preparing for exams, therefore was a surprise call up for the Rabbitohs’ first team last week. After Graham made a thrilling debut against St George Illawarra Dragons, Bunnies coach Michael Maguire described him as a ‘’level-headed kid who will be straight back into the books tomorrow’’. Graham was born in Sydney and has played twice for Australia Schoolboys but qualifies for Scotland courtesy of his Glaswegian father, Stewart.
Having come through the system at the Warriors, second rower or loose forward Bell played for the first team in pre-season and at the Auckland Nines but had to wait until he was 23 to make his NRL bow against Cronulla Sharks last month. Born and bred in Auckland, Bell has represented the Maori but is eligible for Scotland due to his grandfather hailing from Aberdeen.
“James is a tough hard working versatile forward who will fit in really well with our style,” explains McCormack. “And at just 18 years old, Campbell has an enormous future in the game ahead of him. Both players have impressed us with their enthusiasm to represent Scotland and their understanding of what it means to them and their family. We are really pleased to welcome them to the Scotland Rugby League family.”
The two call-ups mark a contrast to the news that 2016 Player of the Year Adam Walker has failed a drugs test. In a statement, Scotland RL chairman Keith Hogg said: “We totally support the RFL anti-doping regulations and the action undertaken by Wakefield Trinity. We will be withdrawing Adam Walker from our extended World Cup squad.”
The Bravehearts have been drawn in Pool B of this year’s Rugby League World Cup and will play New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga during the pool stages, with the top three teams progressing to the Quarter-Finals:
Scotland vs Tonga, 29 October 2017, Barlow Park (Cairns)
Scotland vs New Zealand, 4 November 2017, Christchurch Stadium
Scotland vs Samoa, 11 November 2017, Barlow Park (Cairns)