It takes a special kind of player and person to make it in the NRL.
Not only does a player have to adjust to the new surroundings in a place thousands of miles from home, they also have to adapt to the different style of play that can make or break ex-pats.
Here are the top ten British players to have made a name for themselves Down Under.
10. George Burgess
Following in the steps of brother Sam, George Burgess moved to the NRL with South Sydney ahead of the 2012 season. Over 150 appearances and an NRL Grand Final success in 2014 later and George had underlined his credentials as a world-leading prop forward. A move to Wigan at the end of 2019 ended an incredible seven-year NRL career, though he is now back in the Australian league following serious hip surgery.
9. Tom Burgess
Tom made his debut for the Rabbitohs in 2013 after making almost 50 appearances for Bradford. Still only 28, Tom has worn the Souths jersey over 150 times, including an appearance in the 2014 NRL Grand Final alongside twin George and brothers Sam and Luke. The prop forward will likely hit the 200-appearance mark for the Rabbitohs.
8. George Williams
It may seem bizarre to include a player on this list that has had just one season in the NRL, but the way in which Williams attacked his first year Down Under is certainly something to remember. The halfback helped carry Canberra to the semi-finals of the play-offs, displaying superb attacking qualities as he settled seamlessly into Australian life. For Williams, though, he became homesick midway through the 2021 season and rejoined Super League with the Warrington Wolves.
7. Elliott Whitehead
Yet another former Bradford man on this list, Elliott Whitehead has been with the ‘Green Machine’ since 2016 and has become an ever-present in the Canberra line-up. An incredibly tough second-rower, Whitehead has made over 120 appearances in the green jersey, starring for the club in the 2019 NRL season where the Raiders made that year’s Grand Final. He has most recently been given the captaincy so could be further down in the numbers before too long.
6. Josh Hodgson
Hodgson is still a massive part of the Canberra Raiders side after making the move at the end of the 2014 season. The hooker helped the Raiders to a second-place finish and a semi-final berth in 2016 and was within touching distance of the Dally M Medal that year. Hodgson’s game has gone from strength-to-strength Down Under, with Canberra just losing out on the NRL Grand Final in 2019. Over 100 appearances for the ‘Green Machine’ later and Hodgson will move on to the Parramatta Eels at the end of the 2022 season.
5. John Bateman
The fourth Canberra man to be included in this top ten, John Bateman was only at the Raiders for two seasons, but they could definitely be up there as two of the best seasons for an NRL import the competition has ever seen. Despite his small frame, Bateman took the fight to his rivals, regularly mixing it with the big boys, becoming one of the most feared forwards Down Under. He returned to Wigan for 2021.
4. Adrian Morley
After making a name for himself for the Leeds Rhinos in the first few years of Super League, Adrian Morley travelled to the southern hemisphere in search of glory. Staying at the Sydney Roosters for six seasons, the rampaging enforcer won the 2002 NRL Grand Final as well as the 2003 World Club Challenge, later becoming the first Brit to win both Grand Finals in both Super League and the NRL. With a reputation for a tough as nails approach, Morley let nothing intimidate him on the field.
3. James Graham
The flame-haired prop made the move to Canterbury Bulldogs following an eight-year spell at hometown club St Helens. And, he didn’t look back. Nearly 200 NRL appearances later for the Bulldogs and then St George, Graham took to the NRL like a duck to water. The sign of his influence Down Under was made greater by the fact he was named captain of Canterbury in 2015. He has since retired after winning the Super League Grand Final with St Helens in 2020, but he has taken on punditry role as well as a position at St George.
2. Gareth Ellis
Following spells for Wakefield Trinity and Leeds Rhinos, Ellis moved to Wests Tigers ahead of the 2009 season. In his four seasons at the club, the uncompromising forward won Player of the Year three times in a row and was even nominated for the Golden Boot award. 75 appearances later and Ellis returned to the UK to join Hull FC in 2013 where he won successive Challenge Cups. Having been coaxed out of retirement during an injury crisis at the Black and Whites, Ellis further outlined his reputation as one of the greatest forwards ever.
1. Sam Burgess
Signing a four-year deal with South Sydney Rabbitohs ahead of the 2010 season, Sam Burgess became one of the greatest ever imports the NRL has ever seen. For four seasons before his departure to rugby union side Bath, the former Bradford forward stunned Australian audiences with his performance, winning the Clive Churchill Medal for his heroism in the 2014 NRL Grand Final. Burgess returned to the Rabbitohs after a two-year hiatus in the 15-man code. Overall, the forward made nearly 200 appearances for Souths and may well take a coaching role at the club in 2023.