Buderus: Will Zak buck the British trend?
Zak Hardaker is the latest Englishman to join the NRL and his former teammate at Leeds, Danny Buderus, wants to introduce pre-season loan arrangements that would see more Super League backs develop their skills in Australia.
While the likes of Adrian Morley, James Graham and the Burgess brothers have shown that English forwards have no trouble transitioning to the NRL there have been far fewer backs who have enjoyed similar success.
Sam Tomkins struggled to make the impact that was expected at the Warriors and fellow England international Joe Burgess has made a mid-season switch from the Roosters to the Rabbitohs after he found it difficult to lock down a first grade spot at Bondi.
Buderus spent three years playing alongside Hardaker at the Rhinos and in this week's issue of Big League suggests a more regular exchange of players between the two hemispheres in order to advance both the NRL and Super League.
"I've always been keen to start a program for exchanging players so they can have an experience in either hemisphere short-term, even if it's just for training or development. We have so much to learn from each other," Buderus says in the Round 18 issue of Big League.
"Leeds and international stars like Ryan Hall (wing) and Kallum Watkins (centre) would be great for the program. My idea would be to get them out here for a pre-season or on loan for a year in exchange for a couple of our players.
"In England, if you're training from November in preparation for the season, it's hard to do quality speed and skill work until the warm weather kicks in. At Leeds we went to Florida for 10 days and trained with big smiles and a good dose of Vitamin D.
"To get some backs over here for a bit of experience would improve them as players and people, with a few life lessons along the way."
Hardaker is only the eighth back from the Super League to join the NRL since its inception in 1998 while there have been 14 forwards over the same period test themselves in Australia.
The style of play in England – "support, attack, run, pass and repeat" – makes forwards well-rounded athletes with a broad range of skills but the speed men out wide seem to have difficulty in adapting to the more disciplined style of football found in the NRL.
"You can tell that [James] Graham has been coached on the finer points of catch and grip since a young age. He's well-rehearsed and his style of demanding a support player when he runs so that he can pass and attack has had an effect on the NRL," says Buderus.
"As for the backs, Sam Tomkins was lighting up the Super League for Wigan and he came over with huge pressure for what his salary demanded. I'd love to ask him what he thought about the style of football in the NRL and what the difference was.
"Obviously, the one thing that was cut short for him was time and space. The emphasis on kicks and kick-chase is a huge part of all game plans in the NRL and it affected his impact. But if you paid close attention to Sam, he was around the ball wanting to attack and support which always made him dangerous.
"In the NRL, big English outside backs are on the menu and the production line of forwards will keep coming out to test themselves – especially because a lot of them offer a point of difference that NRL clubs love."
The Round 18 issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available through www.zinio.com, the iTunes Store and Google Play.