The Australian media sees the NRL as the pinnacle of rugby league, rightly or wrongly.
So, when a player leaves Australia for Super League, it is suggested that they have taken a backwards step.
However, in the wake of the Rugby League World Cup, Australian media have put together a list of players who have “proven their doubters wrong” during the tournament including four Super League players suggesting that they have proven their doubters wrong after they left the NRL.
The four players included are Leeds Rhinos star Rhyse Martin, Warrington Wolves man George Williams who said to “never write off” a return to the NRL recently, Salford Red Devils centre and World Cup Finalist Tim Lafai and Leigh Leopards star Edwin Ipape.
Could this narrative culminate in NRL interest for the quartet? Perhaps.
In this list put together by Fox League, this is what the Australian publication said of the quartet:
Tim Lafai: “Has there been a better centre in this World Cup? Tim Lafai wound back the clock to be one of Samoa’s best players and was rewarded with a spot in the Team of the Tournament. The 31-year-old has already played 170 NRL games between 2011 and 2020 but couldn’t land a contract last year so ended up working on a construction site. He got an opportunity to join Salford in the Super League this year and is now knocking on the door of an NRL return after being named in the Super League Dream Team and continuing that form with Samoa. Remarkably he wasn’t meant to make the team, but injuries opened the door for Lafai — and he’s made the most of every moment. Lafai has scored six tries in four games, while averaging 151 metres and seven tackle busts a game. He’s also only missed two tackles in four games. Following Samoa’s historic semi-final win over England, coach Matt Parish called Lafai’s efforts “incredible.””
George Williams: “The English halfback’s stint with the Raiders didn’t go to plan, but he hasn’t rule out giving the NRL another crack, telling foxsports.com.au: “I’d never write off coming back, I really loved it.” Williams returned to the Super League mid-2021 to join Warrington and played a big role in England’s form during the World Cup, earning a spot in the Team of the Tournament and making the five-player shortlist for the Golden Boot. The 27-year-old scored three tries and set up 13 in five games, while averaging 101 metres and three tackle busts a game.”
Rhyse Martin: “Just like Lafai, Rhyse Martin’s first grade career started in the NRL, playing 25 games for the Bulldogs over one and a half seasons before joining Leeds in mid-2019. He’s now got 75 Super League games under his belt — as well as 15 games for Papua New Guinea — and has never looked better. The 29-year-old captained the Kumuls to a quarter-final and was a standout, scoring two tries in four games as well as averaging 83 metres and 38 tackles a game. The sharpshooter only missed two goals from 16 attempts too throughout the tournament. Martin was actually closing in on a world record, having kicked 41 consecutive goals, but when he had the chance to break the record in the Kumuls’ clash with Cook Islands he missed.”
Edwin Ipape: “He could be the biggest breakout star of the World Cup and you’d imagine Edwin Ipape’s efforts for Papua New Guinea would have put him on the radar of some NRL clubs looking to add to their hooking depth. The 23-year-old played for Leigh in the UK’s second division this year but looked to have the ability to play first grade. Ipape announced himself with a man of the match performance in Kumuls’ first game of the World Cup, scoring a try, setting up another, getting a linebreak, a linebreak assist, three tackle busts, four offloads and running for 122 metres, while making 33 tackles. He backed it up with another 100-metre-plus effort the following week along with 39 tackles. Ipape improved his defence too over the course of the tournament, going from seven missed tackles in the first game to making 30 tackles with just one miss in the quarter-final. His form was rewarded with a spot in the World Cup Team of the Tournament and a Golden Boot nomination.”
Two other England players were also included in the list which can be read in full here.