This article originally appeared in issue 398 of Rugby League World magazine. Issue 399 is currently in production and will be on sale from June 6. Click here to find out more about the magazine and to browse back issues click this link…
Sam Tomkins will continue to blossom and take the NRL by storm – according to his England and former Wigan teammate Josh Charnley.
Tomkins came under a huge amount of scrutiny at the start of the season following his high profile, big money move from Wigan to New Zealand Warriors.
A handful of uncharacteristic mistakes added to the pressure on his shoulders as the Warriors struggled in the opening weeks, leading to the departure of the coach who signed Tomkins, Matthew Elliott.
Tomkins wrote in a newspaper column at the time that he felt like he was representing Super League each time he played for the Warriors. He later added that he was aware of “many people” who he felt wanted him to fail in the NRL.
But as the New Zealand side has improved in recent weeks, Tomkins has sprung to the fore.
In round seven he scored a sparkling individual try against St George-Illawarra, stepping through the Dragons defence in trademark style.
The following week he was immersed in the action in attack and defence in a memorable ANZAC day win away at Melbourne Storm, earning plaudits across the media, and the televised man of the match award.
The performance also earned praise from Warriors caretaker coach Andrew McFadden, who said: “He’s been great for us defensively. Everyone’s expecting him to shine for us on attack but his defensive work and scrambling has been second to none.”
For Charnley, a close friend of Tomkins, that has come as little shock.
He has remained in regular contact with the former Wigan fullback and says he will only continue to get better as the season unfolds.
“We speak to him all the time – I message him every other day or so,” Charnley told Rugby League World.
“I’ve been watching a fair bit of Sam to keep my eye on him. It takes a bit of time for a player to settle in. There’s the intensity of the game over there and then the pressure that they put on him because of what he’s achieved over here.
”He took a little bit of time to find his feet but he’s definitely improving.
“He’ll blossom. He’s one of those players that you want in your squad because he can pull anything out of the bag. He’ll get there and he’ll blow them all away.”
Charnley believes that the scale of the move to New Zealand off the field will have had as much of an impact on his early form as what happens on it.
“Sam only used to live around the corner from his mum and now he’s 12,000 miles away,” said Charnley, himself recovering from a knee injury sustained in the Challenge Cup win at Dewsbury Rams.
“He’s a family man, loves his brothers and his mum and was always spending time around his family.
“It was a shock for him, but he’s handled it well and he’s playing some good rugby at the moment.”