For this week’s Thursday Thirteen, we’ve taken inspiration from one of our columnists, Garry Schofield. Schoey published what he believed to be the ten greatest overseas players ever to play Rugby League in England in this week’s edition of League Express (which you can read online here), and it certainly got you talking!
So with that in mind, we’ve decided to take it a step further and put together the greatest 13 compiled entirely of overseas players. We’ve had to limit it though; there were so many to choose from, we’ve gone for players who only played in Super League since its inception. Still, a tough call to leave some greats of the game out though – and if you disagree, don’t hesitate to let us know on social media!
Full-back: Brett Hodgson (Huddersfield and Warrington)
A Man of Steel winner during his time at Huddersfield, Hodgson served the British game with distinction during his time with both the Giants and Warrington Wolves. A prolific try scorer as well as an incredible goal-kicker, Hodgson was a superb servant for Super League during the latter years of his incredible playing career.
Right wing: Pat Richards (Wigan)
When Richards arrived from Wests Tigers in 2006, few thought he would go on and spend eight seasons with the Warriors before finally heading back to the NRL. He won every domestic honour with the Warriors during a superb spell in Lancashire, earning spots in the Super League Dream Team as well as being a joint-winner of our own Albert Goldthorpe Medal.
Right centre: Jamie Lyon (St Helens)
Two seasons in Super League often isn’t really enough to earn a place in a team like this, but Jamie Lyon is in due to the incredible impact he had on the English game. He played a key role in perhaps the finest ever St Helens side – their 2006 team that conquered all before them in a phenomenal year of Rugby League. A Man of Steel winner, Lyon has since gone back to the NRL and played State of Origin on a regular basis.
Left centre: Shontayne Hape (Bradford)
Plenty of contenders for the centres, most notably former Wigan man Steve Renouf – who had an astonishing two seasons with the Warriors in 2000 and 2001. But legendary Bradford three-quarter Shontayne Hape makes the cut in this instance, largely due to the incredible partnership he had with the man who is next up on this list. A member of Bradford’s greatest ever team (as voted for by the Bradford public), Hape was perhaps the finest centre Super League has ever seen.
Left wing: Lesley Vainikolo (Bradford)
The greatest wing-centre pairing in Super League history is complete with the addition of Bradford Bulls icon Lesley Vainikolo into this week’s Thursday XIII. Vainikolo broke multiple records during his time at the club, and won Super League titles, Challenge Cup trophies and the World Club Challenge whilst in West Yorkshire. Left for Rugby Union after a record-breaking spell at Bradford.
Stand-off: Henry Paul (Wigan, Bradford and Harlequins)
Brother Robbie could perhaps count himself quite unfortunate to miss out here, but Henry Paul was an incredible servant for a number of clubs over a lengthy period of time. In between several spells in Rugby Union, Paul won plenty of domestic trophies with the likes of Wigan and Bradford, as well as breaking the season record for most goals in a season back in 2001 with Bradford.
Scrum-half: Andrew Johns (Warrington)
He only played a handful of games for Warrington, but Andrew Johns has to surely be regarded as Super League’s greatest ever import. He came to spearhead Warrington’s charge towards the Grand Final in 2005, playing three games for the Wolves before their Old Trafford mission was ended. However, Warrington fans will no doubt still pinch themselves when they are reminded of the fact “Joey” wore the famous primrose and blue.
Prop: Joe Vagana (Bradford)
Into the pack, and one of Bradford’s “Awesome Foursome” in Joe Vagana. He spent eight seasons with Bradford between 2001 and 2008, winning three Super League titles along the way. A dominant forward with a slick offload, Vagana became one of the iconic forwards in Super League history with a thunderous spell at Odsal.
Hooker: Danny Buderus (Leeds)
Danny Buderus arrived in England as a 31-year-old one club man, but his spell with the Leeds Rhinos between 2009 and 2011 cemented him as one of the finest imports Super League has ever seen. He won a Super League Grand Final with the club in 2010, before returning to the NRL with Newcastle for the 2012 season.
Prop: Apollo Perilini (St Helens)
A barnstorming forward who enjoyed an incredible spell at the Saints around the beginning of Super League, Perilini was arguably one of the most destructive props to ever set foot on a Super League field. A dual-code international, Perilini played over 150 times for the Saints, winning Super League titles along the way.
Second-row: David Furner (Wigan and Leeds)
Arguably one of the finest second-row forwards to play in the NRL, Furner made equally big waves when he came to Super League with Wigan Warriors, and later Leeds Rhinos.
Second-row: Ali Lauitiiti (Leeds and Wakefield)
Still strutting his stuff to this day with Wakefield, Ali Lauitiiti remains one of the cult figures of Super League. Renowned for his try scoring ability as well his superb offloading skills, Lauitiiti enjoyed a hugely successful spell with Leeds before making the switch across West Yorkshire to join Wakefield.
Loose forward: Steve Menzies (Bradford and Catalan)
Perhaps the finest forward ever to play Rugby League, Super League fans were treat to some glorious stuff from Steve Menzies when he played for Bradford and then Catalan – even if he was in his late 30s. Many believed “Beaver” could have gone around again this season despite his tender years, but he opted to finally call time on an incredible playing career to head home.