More English rugby league players are heading to Australia to chance their arm than ever before. Some, like Sam Burgess, Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson, have gone on to become household names in the NRL.
However, there have been some surprising British exports to Australia in the past two decades or so. Here’s TotalRL’s list of the top 10 surprising ones.
Dan Sarginson (Gold Coast Titans)
Now back in Super League with Wigan, Dan Sarginson headed for the NRL in 2017, opting to sign with Gold Coast Titans. He left the Warriors having won the 2016 Grand Final – but was restricted to just six games during his time with the Titans after a serious shoulder injury. He ultimately returned to Wigan in time for the 2018 campaign – when he again won at Old Trafford.
Mark Flanagan (Wests Tigers)
Flangan, son of former Great Britain forward Terry, was subject to a surprise NRL move when Wests Tigers came in for him in 2009 on a 1-year contract. The 30-year-old had cost Wigan over £10,000 at a young age in compensation, but he never truly broke into the team having mainly featured for the reserves and on loan at Halifax. So it came as a shock when West Tigers came in for him. Flanagan played 21 games in his first season with the Tigers, but was left out of the side in his second season, prompting him to return to St Helens, before moving to Salford in 2016.
Jordan Tansey (Sydney Roosters)
Workington Town fullback Tansey joined Sydney Roosters in 2009 at the age of 23 after knocking on the door of the Leeds side in his younger years. That spell would be short-lived, however, as he played just 7 times and scored a solitary try before heading back to Super League to join Hull FC. Since then, the 32-year-old has had a nomadic career, playing for a host of Yorkshire clubs and Crusaders, while also having spells in Australia and France briefly before joining Leon Pryce’s Workington.
Tyrone McCarthy (St George Illawarra Dragons)
The Warrington-born forward had already ventured Down Under when he joined St George, playing for Northern Pride and being instrumental in their 2014 Intrust Super Cup win and also the inaugural NRL State Championship. He returned to England after that season in 2014 to join Hull KR, where he acted as captain for the Robins’ 50-0 defeat to Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup final. Just a week after the heavy defeat, St George Illawarra Dragons announced his signing, but his stay in Australia was again a short one. McCarthy played just twice in the NRL, mainly featuring for Illawarra RLFC in the Intrust Super Cup, before returning to England with Salford in 2017.
Ian Sibbit (Melbourne Storm)
Perhaps one of the lesser known players on this list to have had exploits in the NRL, Sibbit headed to Melbourne Storm in 2002 as a 21-year-old from Warrington Wolves. A season for Brits Down Under that never gets a mention, on reflection, as he broke into he side and played 20 times before re-signing for Warrington Wolves. Often considered a consistent performer in Super League, Sibbit also had a five-year spell with Salford before hanging up his boots with Bradford Bulls in 2012.
Scott Moore (North Queensland Cowboys)
Sadly the career of Scott Moore has taken a drastic turn since rubbing shoulders with the likes of Johnathan Thurston in 2013. Moore had struggled for game time at Widnes Vikings and Huddersfield Giants before the move to the Southern Hemisphere, hence why the move was a big surprise, and he only made six appearances before heading back to the UK with the London Broncos. He now founds himself with a second chance in Rugby League, signed for Rochdale ahead of next season, after being jailed for 23 months in March after driving a car at 150mph in a police chase, before being granted an early release.
Chris Thorman (Parramatta Eels)
Recently departed Huddersfield Giants assistant Chris Thorman headed to Parramatta a world record holder after scoring a hat-trick in under 7 minutes for Huddersfield Giants in 2002. After joining the Eels from London Broncos in 2004, Thorman was never able to replicate that clinical finishing, scoring just once in 11 games, before resigning for Huddersfield. The Newcastle-born halfback captained Huddersfield in the 2006 Challenge Cup final defeat to St Helens, eventually becoming an integral part in the Huddersfield side before spells with Hull FC and York – where he hung up his boots in 2012 to turn to full-time coaching.
Lee Mossop (Parramatta Eels)
The Cumbrian forward had been a reliable cog in the Wigan Warriors side for a number of years when he headed to Parramatta in 2014, and was set to transfer that form into the NRL. Sadly, a shoulder injury in his third appearance for the Eels against Melbourne Storm ruled him out for the rest of the season and the two-time England international returned to Wigan the year after. He could never truly break back into the Warriors side upon his return, joining Salford in 2017 where he showed his ability once again.
Greg Eden (Brisbane Broncos)
Eden played under the stewardship of England coach Wayne Bennett during the 2016 season at Brisbane Broncos. The fullback turned winger showed glimpses of his ability, mainly for Wynnum Manly the Broncos’ feeder side, while he also scored a length of the field try against Wigan Warriors in the Broncos’ World Club Challenge victory. The 28-year-old returned to his hometown club Castleford Tigers at the end of the 2016 season in blistering form, finishing top try scorer in the 2017 Super League season with 38 tries.
Keith Mason (Melbourne Storm)
Keith Mason’s career is certainly one that would not be described as ordinary. The Dewsbury-born forward headed to Melbourne in 2002 as a youngster from then-named Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, but never got as close as he’d of liked to the Melbourne side, only playing for them on just four occasions. He later played for St Helens, Castleford Tigers (twice) and Huddersfield Giants, retiring in 2013. Since then? Appearing in the TV show Peaky Blinders and working on a graphic Rugby League novel called ‘Rugby Blood.’
Honourable mentions (players who’ve moved to Australia but haven’t played in the NRL): Jordan Baldwinson, Jordan Turner, Mason Tonks, Mike Worrincy
Is there anyone we’ve missed? If so, tweet us @leagueexpress!