SIGNING a player from abroad comes with its risks and rewards, but sometimes a new recruit can become a cult hero for their new side in the northern hemisphere.
Since 1996, there has been a plethora of overseas signings that have made history with their clubs in Super League and whom will forever be remembered in the UK and France.
However, every so often, there is an overseas recruit that just sticks in the hearts and minds. Here are five of the best.
5. Robbie Hunter-Paul
Separating brothers is hard to do at the best of times, but doing it when both Robbie Hunter-Paul and brother Henry had an incredible impact on Super League is even harder to do.
Robbie moved from New Zealand to the UK in 1994 – aged just 18. But, the lightning quick fullback/halfback became a talismanic figure in the ‘Golden Era’ of the Bradford Bulls, scoring 224 tries in 241 appearances and taking precedence over brother Henry.
At just 20 years of age, Hunter-Paul captained Bradford at halfback in the 1996 Challenge Cup Final and became the fourth player ever to register – what was a Challenge Cup final record – three tries.
Despite being on the losing side in a brilliant 40-32 defeat to St Helens, Hunter-Paul being awarded the Lance Todd Trophy for a man-of-the-match performance. During that phenomenal 1996 season, the maverick Kiwi was the Bulls’ top try scorer and still holds the record for the most tries scored for Bradford.
All in all, Hunter-Paul won three Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and one World Club Challenge and captained Bradford to their infamous treble in 2003. He even earned 29 caps for New Zealand and was later named in Bradford’s ‘Team of the Century’.
4. Tommy Leuluai
Some people often forget that Tommy Leuluai – now considered a Wigan legend – began his UK career with the London Broncos in 2005. There he spent two seasons before making the move to the Warriors where the rest they say is history.
The New Zealand international registered over 300 appearances in two separate spells at the DW Stadium before retiring at the end of 2022 and taking a place on the Wigan coaching staff where he still remains today.
During his first spell at Wigan – which spanned 2007 to 2011 – Leuluai helped the Lancashire club to a Grand Final and Challenge Cup, but it was his second period with the Warriors which enamoured him further to the Wigan faithful.
Helping Wigan to two more Grand Final successes, another Challenge Cup win as well as a World Club Challenge victory, the Kiwi went down in Warriors’ folklore for his bruising and uncompromising style of play.
3. Kylie Leuluai
There must be something in the name Leuluai because Tommy’s namesake Kylie also features on this list. A Leeds Rhinos legend, this Leuluai went on to become the club’s longest-serving and most successful overseas player of all-time with a total of six Grand Final successes, two World Club Challenge wins and two Challenge Cup victories in just nine years.
With over 250 appearances under his belt for the Rhinos, Leuluai hung up his boots at the end of the 2015 season – the year in which Leeds completed the incredible treble under former head coach Brian McDermott.
No other overseas signing has quite made the impact at Headingley as the rampaging enforcer, and it’s perhaps unlikely to ever see it again in Super League.
2. Pat Richards
There perhaps will never be another goalkicker like Pat Richards to grace Super League ever again. Amassing a quite extraordinary 2,468 points in his eight-year spell with the Wigan Warriors, the rangy winger became a cult hero at the Lancashire club. Often hailed as having the greatest boot in Super League history, Richards went on to win the 2010 and 2013 Grand Finals with Wigan as well as the 2011 Challenge Cup.
Individually, Richards won the Man of Steel award in 2010 and is the highest overseas points-scorer in the competition’s history. Of course, the former Ireland international also had a short spell with the Catalans Dragons, but it was his quite remarkable spell with Wigan for which he is fondly remembered.
1. Jamie Lyon
It’s perhaps quite strange to have a number one choice as someone who only played in the Super League competition for two seasons. However, Jamie Lyon’s impact was so great in those two seasons that he just has to be named at number one in this list. The centre won the 2005 Man of Steel award and was key in St Helens’ treble-winning season in 2006, delivering some masterful performances to sweep aside Super League rivals.
Lyon ended his Saints career with 46 tries, 202 goals and 586 points from only 63 appearances as the rest of the top flight and their fans stood back in awe at the achievements amassed by this maverick talent.
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