Wales target NRL duo

Wales are hoping to tempt two leading NRL players to join their 2021 World Cup campaign, including rising Newcastle Knights’ rookie Bradman Best.

The 18-year-old centre has taken the Australian competition by storm this year and qualifies through the heritage rule.

Wales are also in regular contact with Penrith fullback Caleb Aekins, 22, who started the Panthers’ first five games of this season.

New Zealand-born Aekins made a record-breaking NRL debut in 2018 when he ran for 303 metres in the match against Cronulla Sharks in 2018, and was the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Player of the Year that season.

Aekins, who also has Welsh heritage, has been in touch with officials for some time, and although Kear admits they will have more of a battle to secure Best given his current form, he says both would be huge assets for the Dragons next year.

Kear said: “They are two real high quality players that our team manager has been in contact with.

“Caleb is already in the World Cup WhatsApp group and we’ve been chasing Bradman to try and get a yes.

“I can understand why he might be dragging his heels a bit – if he carries on playing how he’s playing then he could be in the Australian team.

“He could be playing Origin by the end of the year.

“But he could go back and play for Australia after the tournament, like Tyson Frizell did.

“Tyson was Wales’ best player in the 2013 World Cup and it certainly didn’t do him any harm.”
Asked about the qualities of both players Kear added: “Caleb is a quality fullback who’s very good under the high ball and controls his side getting the numbers right in defence.

“With the ball he links up really well in attack.

“Bradman set off scoring at more than a try a game, and to do that in the NRL at his age is remarkable.

“To be a genuine strike weapon in a tough competition like that at 18 years of age is unbelievable – he’s come into the Newcastle side and been one of their better players.

“He’s a big thing – he reminds me of Mal Meninga.

“He’s got great skills, can defend and takes some putting down with the ball in hand.”

Wales have been placed in a group with Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.