There’s been a long tradition of players from the UK coming to Australia to ply their trade.
And many of them have not only been the best Test players that their countries could produce, but also made it to the biggest game of all in Australia when they played in a grand final.
The first Pommy that I can remember appearing in a premiership decider was Englishman Dick Huddart, an exceptional running second rower, who scored a try for St George in their 23-4 grand final victory over Balmain in 1966.
Before joining the Dragons, Huddart had notched up 17 Tests for Great Britain and England.
So here’s a team of Pommy internationals who made it to the grand final, and not all of them actually played in the UK!
The selection criteria are that the player represented either Great Britain or a UK country at Test level and played in a grand final at the top level in Australia since 1970.
1. Gareth Widdop
Gareth Widdop played for Melbourne in their 2012 grand final victory over Canterbury. He played 32 Tests for England and Great Britain, either at five-eighth, halfback, fullback or off the bench.
2. Jack Reed
Reed scored a try for Brisbane in the 2015 grand final and then watched on as Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston kicked the winning field goal in extra time to defeat the Broncos 17-16.
Reed played five Tests for England in 2011 scoring five tries. Reed never actually played club football in England.
3. Ellery Hanley
Hanley was one of the all-time greats, playing nearly 500 first-grade games in his career and scoring nearly 400 tries.
He also notched 38 Tests for England and Great Britain, many as their captain, and won pretty much every award and trophy there was to win with the exception of a grand final in Australia.
He played for Balmain in the 1988 grand final when they were defeated 24-12 by Canterbury, but it’s unlikely that he remembers much of the game after being concussed towards the end of the first half.
4. Andy Currier
Andy Currier was a very good outside back who played for Balmain in their narrow 19-14 grand final loss to Canberra in 1989. He played two Tests for Great Britain.
5. Lachlan Coote
Lachlan Coote played fullback in the Cowboys’ one-point win over the Broncos in the 2015 grand final, and also turned out for them in the 2017 grand final in which they were beaten 34-6 by Melbourne.
Coote, by virtue of his Scottish heritage, has so far played three Tests for Scotland, and has played in the English Super League for the last three years.
6. Shaun Edwards
Balmain had some very good starting halves in the 1989 grand final in Gary Freeman and Mick Neil as Edwards played off the bench. The Tigers lost 19-14 to the Raiders.
That bench experience would have been a rare one for Edwards as he was one of the greatest players the game has seen, playing 542 first-grade games, scoring over 300 tries, and also notching up 40 Tests for Great Britain, England and Ireland.
7. Tommy Bishop
Bishop was part of the English avant garde when he arrived at Cronulla in 1969, and four years later in 1973 he captained-coached the club to their very first grand final.
That decider was against Manly, a game that they lost by just three points after an 80-minute pitched battle. Before joining the Sharks, Bishop played in 15 Tests for Great Britain.
8. Adrian Morley
To describe Adrian Morley as an unpredictable hothead really doesn’t do the term justice.
He featured in three grand finals for the Roosters in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with the 2002 match-up resulting in a premiership ring when the Roosters defeated the Warriors 30-8.
He played 53 Tests for England and Great Britain and finished his career with nearly 500 first-grade appearances.
9. Josh Hodgson
Josh Hodgson co-captained the Raiders in their 2019 premiership campaign when they were beaten 14-8 by the Roosters in the grand final.
He has been a regular in the England and Great Britain teams since making his international debut in 2014 and now has 23 Test matches to his name.
10. Cliff Watson
Cliff Watson was a noted hard man and really didn’t take kindly to the opposition.
He joined Tommy Bishop at Cronulla in 1971 and, like Bishop, played his last match in their 1973 grand final loss to Manly. Before joining the Sharks, Watson played 11 Tests for England and Great Britain.
11. Sam Burgess
Sam Burgess played over 180 games for South Sydney, but none more telling than the 2014 grand final in which Souths defeated the Bulldogs, storming home to win by 30-6.
Burgess courageously played the game with a broken cheekbone after being injured in the first tackle of the match.
He played 26 Tests matches for England and Great Britain in his 12-year international career, many of them as captain.
12. Brian Lockwood
Lockwood was just what a 1970s English second rower should be – as tough as an army boot with a good dose of ball skills.
He played just 16 games for the Bulldogs in 1974 with the last one being their 19-4 loss to the Roosters in the grand final. He played 12 Tests for Great Britain and England.
13. Malcolm Reilly
Arguably the best Englishman to visit our shores with football on his mind, Malcolm Reilly played a big part in Manly’s first two grand final victories.
The first was in 1972 when they defeated the Roosters 19-14, and the second was in 1973 when they defeated Cronulla 10-7. He played 12 Tests for England and Great Britain.
14. Gary Stephens
Stephens joined his English compatriots Phil Lowe and Steve Norton at Manly in 1976 and had instant success when Manly edged out Parramatta 13-10 in the premiership decider that year.
He was a clever and speedy halfback who played five Tests for Great Britain and one for England.
15. Kevin Ward
It seems that whenever Manly needed to win a premiership, they’d get their hands on an English Test forward.
Kevin Ward was one of the toughest front rowers going around in the UK when Manly signed him in 1987 and he didn’t let them down, playing a big part in their grand final victory that year, defeating Canberra 18-8.
Ward notched up 17 Test matches for Great Britain.
16. James Graham
James Graham proved himself to be a warrior of the highest order in his 18-year career in the top grade.
And he certainly left his mark in his two grand final performances for the Bulldogs.
The 14-4 loss to Melbourne saw him suspended for 12 games after he tried to make a snack of Billy Slater’s ear, and two years later in 2016 he collided with opposition English teammate Sam Burgess in the first tackle of the match, breaking Burgess’ cheekbone.
Souths ended up winning the game 30-6. The big front rower played an incredible 53 Tests for England and Great Britain.
17. Phil Lowe
Phil Lowe was a ball-carrying weapon with the size and pace to trouble any defence.
He was an instant hit when he joined Manly in 1974 and scored their only try in their 13-10 victory over Parramatta in the 1976 grand final.
He played 17 Tests for England and Great Britain in his career, crossing for ten tries.