By now, we all know that Canberra Raiders have made a habit of poaching some of the top talent in the Super League, taking them to the Australian capital and moulding them into the stars of the NRL.
Some of the signings they’ve made, admittedly, haven’t paid off. Jordan Turner is the obvious example. But plenty have.
John Bateman may have grabbed the headlines for his performances in the NRL this season. And rightly so. But Canberra’s Head of Recruitment Peter Mulholland was even more impressed by the Raiders’ other recruit ahead of 2019 from Wigan Warriors; Ryan Sutton.
“Ryan was fantastic,” Mulholland begins.
“I think he was the success story of the year. I always expected Bateman to be good but Ryan, out of the four Englishman, was the success story. He achieved more milestones than we thought he would. He was unlucky not to be in that final series.
“He suits the NRL style. When I was at St George, Mike Cooper was there and he suited the style of the Australian game. He was a hard working, get-your-bum-up middle forward and he was tremendous.”
You may be forgiven for thinking that the reason for Mulholland and the Raiders’ interest in the forward was solely due to his Super League form. Of course, that will have been a factor. But in reality, Mulholland had Sutton pegged as an NRL star right at the beginning of Sutton’s rise in the academy setup at the Warriors.
“I went and watched him in an academy game and then made contact with him,” continued Mulholland.
“What I liked about him was that he was always determined to finish his apprenticeship before he did anything and went full-time. He wanted to play two or three years in the UK before he came to the NRL and he gave me his word that he would come.”
And boy did Sutton repay the faith that Mulholland showed in him at such a young age. The forward went on to feature 20 times for the Raiders as they reached their first Grand Final in a quarter of a century.
And Mulholland doesn’t expect things to stop there for Canberra. As well as Sutton, the Green Machine have a whole host of young stars that are hungry for more.
“We’ve improved the squad. (Curtis) Scott gives us depth and George Williams gives us a variation in the halves which will balance out losing (Aidan) Sezer.
“But more important is the experience that Sutton, Emre Guler, Corey Horsburgh, Bailey Simonsson and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad got.”
With the brilliant success that the Raiders have had with taking players from the Super League, you won’t be surprised to know that they’ve got their eye on the next batch of hungry Englishmen.
While Mulholland regularly watches academy games in this country, one of his main tools is the Magic Weekend which, in 2020, returns to St James’ Park and, of course, features every Super League team under one roof.
“The Magic Weekend is fantastic because they put it all in front of you for one weekend.
“It’s a concept that we’ve copied. I think they’ve done a wonderful job with it but it’s not as good as going to Newcastle that’s for sure.
“There are a couple of players in England that I would like to grab. There are some good young forwards and a young outside back that I like.
“Wigan have got four or five really good young forwards coming through. Oliver Partington is a good kid, Morgan Smithies is a good kid, young (Jake) Trueman, the young centre at Wigan is a good kid and St Helens have a couple of really good forwards.”
You’ve been warned Super League.