The NRL is back underway and already it looks set to be an unbelievable season if the first round is anything to go by.
The Penrith Panthers showed why they are the reigning premiers as they overcame the Manly Sea Eagles. There were also shock wins for the Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Seven Englishmen featured over the course of the weekend, varying from NRL stalwarts to players making their debut. Shaun Wane will have been keeping a close eye on these players as they look to nail down a spot in his World Cup squad. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at how the English cohort fared down under this weekend;
Entering his 10th season with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Burgess came off the bench in the season opener playing over 40 minutes. The powerhouse forward produced a typically solid display making 88m and 27 tackles. However, his performance wasn’t enough to help the Bunnies secure a win over a stubborn Brisbane Broncos side. The Rabbitohs are going to need to find some more fluidity in attack if they are to reach the Grand Final again this season.
The young centre got his season off to the best start as his solid display helped the Brisbane Broncos on their way to a surprise victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Up against Origin centre Campbell Graham, Farnworth held his own and kept the Rabbitohs right edge very quiet. If he continues with performances like this then he should grab the attention of Shaun Wane.
With almost 150 NRL games to his name, Whitehead is still as reliable as they come and, entering his seventh season with the Canberra Raiders, he looks to have been given a new role. Whitehead has been shifted to loose-forward this season by coach Ricky Stuart, whether this is the case for the rest of the season remains to be seen but Whitehead put in a professional shift in his new position making 24 tackles and being a key ball player for the Raiders as they overcame the Cronulla Sharks 24-19.
Not the start of the season the experienced hooker would have wanted as he had to hobble off the field after only six minutes with a nasty looking knee injury. With the location of the injury there was worry that Hodgson’s season may be over but has now been confirmed to be a knee cartilage injury and not the dreaded ACL. Return to play for Hodgson is looking around 2-3 weeks if surgery can be avoided.
In his NRL debut, Gildart was a standout performer for a West Tigers team who were unlucky to come away with nothing after a hard fought effort against the Melbourne Storm. Gildart ran for 110m and seems to have formed a good connection with new wing partner Ken Maumalo as he set the winger up for the first try of the game. A promising start that he will look to build upon in the coming weeks.
The young winger put in a monster performance as the Newcastle Knights produced arguably the biggest shock of Round One as they bested the Sydney Roosters 20–6. The giant winger made a staggering 130m and showed his blistering pace on several occasions when breaking the line. Young was then involved in the moment of the game, as it looked like Origin winger Daniel Tupou was going to score in the corner, Young made a superb try saving tackle to deny him. His day was then made even better when he got a try of his own to seal the win for the Knights. Young is expected to represent Jamaica at the World Cup but if he continues with performances like this one then Shaun Wane may be trying to change his mind.
Thompson is fast becoming one of the best props in the NRL and he proved that once again against the North Queensland Cowboys as the Canterbury Bulldogs ran out 6-4 winners. Playing 63 minutes off the interchange bench, Thompson made 46 tackles and 131 metres from 13 carries. In a new look Bulldogs team, Thompson is the enforcer they need to give their exciting backs such as Matt Burton the chance to succeed.