Newcastle Knights want to emulate Canberra success with English imports
Dom Young (left) and Kai Pearce-Paul (right) in action for England at the World Cup | Photo: Mark Cosgrove/News Images
Newcastle Knights are building a team based around England’s hottest talent in the hope it can lead them further to NRL glory.
That’s according to new signing Jackson Hastings, who was a popular figure during his time in England with Salford and Wigan.
The Knights have already unearthed a gem in towering winger Dom Young, who has scored 18 tries in 26 appearances since bursting onto the NRL scene.
And poised for a shot at fullback is Bailey Hodgson, the cousin of seasoned NRL hack Josh.
Will Pryce and Kai Pearce-Paul, two of the most promising players in the English game, will join the Knights in 2024.
Newcastle Knights are hoping to reap the rewards of what Canberra did a few years ago, when the likes of Josh Hodgson, John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, George Williams and Ryan Sutton helped the Raiders climb the NRL ladder.
Of their English talents on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast, Hastings said: “Will is just scratching the surface of what he can be.
“Super League put some highlights of him on Instagram and the amount of tries he scored from 40 or 50 meters with his good footwork and speed – it’s like looking in the mirror to see how Leon (Pryce) play in the day. He is an incredible talent.
“He will definitely fit in somewhere. You don’t go out of your way to get an England player early in their career at 18 or 19 just not to play. He will definitely be somewhere in our team and then you have Kai Pearce-Paul who is another young, outstanding English talent who is also going to be a big part of our side.
“I don’t know it for a fact, but the Knights are going down the route of what Canberra did and what made them so successful as well.”
“We get them very young and if we can get a core group of English people there, then you never know who you can attract going forward. It’s a good part of the world to live in, it’s a bit of a change from what they’re used to, so hopefully they can settle in quickly.
“We also have Bailey Hodgson there, who is Josh’s cousin. He goes very well at fullback, who will get the first crack so to speak. He’s a confident young kid and a tough little bug too, so hopefully he’ll do well in the trials and the sky’s the limit for him.”
Super League’s battle to retain its best talent
Great Britain international Hastings, who won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel in 2019, admits it is difficult for Super League to compete with the NRL because of the financial differences.
“Financially for them, money is not everything, but it can be almost life-changing for a young person who will be on maybe £50,000 or £60,000,” Hastings admitted on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast. “I think the minimum wage here is like $150,000. I know if you get close to that, but your contract as a kid can go up and up and up.
“If you come from a single-parent home like, for example, Kai, this is life-changing money not only for himself, but also for his mother and brothers.
“I want to see superstar talent stay in the Super League because I care so much about that competition and I’ve been there for so long. I almost feel like I started there, but at the same time the players have to do what’s best for themselves.
“The more talent we can get to stay in the Super League, the better the English rugby league will be going forward.”
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