The World Cup has showcased a host of outstanding Rugby League players – the top class stars, uncovered gems and talented youngsters.
But there has also been a host of impressive performers coming from within the part-time Kingstone Press Championship.
In this article I have picked out six of the most notable ones.
LIAM FINN – Ireland’s captain during the toughest of any World Cup campaign, Finn led Mark Aston’s side from the front.
The Featherstone playmaker looked the man most likely to break down the world class defences of Australia, England and Fiji, with Ireland forced to name makeshift halfbacks outside him at stand-off.
But Finn’s star really rose when he took to the Kangaroos’ team bus after the match in Limerick, addressing them to apologise for any excess noise his side had made on a flight home that also included Brent Tate’s young family.
“Finn is all class,” the official NRL website noted.
“It was a touching moment – the Australians, to a man, applauded after the Irish skipper had finished talking and wishing the team the best for the World Cup.”
CHRISTIAAN ROETS – The North Wales Crusaders player was a surprise omission from Wales’ opening match with Italy at the Millennium Stadium.
But when recalled to Iestyn Harris’ team for the second game against the USA, he turned into one of the rare success stories of a World Cup to forget for the Welsh.
Playing in the centre on his home ground in Wrexham, the South African-born Roets scored two tries in the 16-24 loss to the Tomahawks.
He then backed that up with another outstanding display – this time on the wing – scoring twice more as Wales lost 24-28 to the Cook Islands in Neath.
JESSIE JOE NANDYE – The name might not be familiar, but the face and running style certainly were.
The player formerly known as Jessie Joe Parker changed his name after a recent spell back in his native Papua New Guinea.
But his contribution to the Kumuls’ display was as expected – as one of the most experienced players in Adrian Lam’s squad, he took as much responsibility as possible in a difficult World Cup campaign.
Nandye played second row for PNG, but is expected to be back in the centres when he returns to the Championship with Whitehaven in 2014.
BRETT PHILLIPS – The Workington Town backrower was eased into the considerable step-up of a World Cup by being introduced as a second-half substitute in the Bravehearts’ Derwent Park matches.
Asked about his contribution by the local press after both games, coach Steve McCormack was quick to highlight Phillips’ impact.
When the must-win game with USA came around the following week, McCormack promoted the young Town second rower to his starting line-up.
Phillips responded superbly, scoring the Scots’ opening try as they fought back from a 0-8 half-time deficit to win 22-8 in Salford.
BEN HELLEWELL – Such has been the Featherstone centre’s impact over the last two weeks that Super League clubs have reportedly been circling.
Hellewell has already been on the books at Bradford and Warrington, but failed to establish himself as a first-choice player at Rovers in 2013, even spending time on loan with Barrow.
The World Cup has brought the best out of the talented utility back though, and he has looked firmly at home in the right centre.
Hellewell scored arguably the try of the tournament so far in the second half of the draw against Italy, finishing a brilliant move that was sparked by Danny Brough’s chip and chase.
LUKE AMBLER – The Halifax frontrower was left out of the Ireland side for their opening match against Fiji at Spotland.
But he was brought onto the bench by Mark Aston for the meeting with England at Huddersfield five days later, and made an immediate impact.
Aston highlighted his contribution against the full-time England forwards at the after-match press conference.
And Ambler backed that up with another gutsy, committed performance against the Australians in Limerick.
First published in League Express, Monday 18th Nov 2013