Playmaker’s Insight: NRL, Super League comparison

With 130 games across the NRL and Super League, Raiders veteran Sam Williams breaks down the key differences between the two.

Playmaker's Insights

The influx of English players coming to the NRL in recent years has intrigued many as the comparisons between the two competitions is one with plenty of debate.

It is a question that I often get asked, what is the difference between the two competitions?

The biggest thing I noticed was the depth of each squad. In Australia the majority of players will sign with an NRL squad even if they aren’t going to play many games that year.

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They will then play in the strong State Cups and try to earn a new deal again.

Whereas the English game has three levels before amateur. This means that there is players with plenty of ability that could be in Super League squads that choose to play in the Championship.

This can occur with our state cup teams as well, however it was something that stood out to me over there. 

On the back of this there is more games and less player welfare, due to this squads need to use fringe players more often.

The Super League teams with the best depth are often the most successful.

The Super League teams with the best depth are often the most successful.

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Obviously depth is vital in any sporting code across the world, but there’s a particular emphasis on it in English rugby league.

As seen with us at the Raiders there is some high quality players in the Super League.

Understandably though, we often judge the competition based on rosters, and with the amount of juniors in Australia, NZ and the Pacific Islands it is hard to get the same numbers of quality players through to the top level.

The recruitment of Peter Mulholland at Canberra has been extremely calculated and deliberate when looking at the English players.

The common theme has been tough and skilful, a pretty decent combination for any rugby league player, but having it in the abundance that they have is rare.

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The ability to enjoy a beer (especially Elliott Whitehead) is a bonus. The English forwards have always been this way, not all have been as successful, but uncompromising is one word you learn quickly when lining up with them.

English backs haven’t had the same consistent success as their big and burly forward counterparts, some have been outstanding but the general rule has been that the success just hasn’t been there.

In recent years the influx of Polynesians into the game has created a plethora of athletic, strong, fast and powerful players down under as the role of the winger has changed too.

It is the perfect combination for outside backs in both rugby union and rugby league.

Recruiters will look across both codes for this type of player and Super League clubs have also hand picked this prototype, just look at Lesley Vainikolo and the success he amongst many have had once leaving the Australian shores.

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One born and bred English player I would love to see try his hand in the NRL is Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone.

He is an unbelievable finisher who is up there with the best across the world, boasting a good build and lightening quick feet.

He is still only young and the opportunity I’m sure will present itself in time.

There is some really good talent in the UK. I loved my time there and I’m glad recruiters in Australia are taking it seriously by bringing some players out here.

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