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Opinion

The NRL’s 2022 export crop

Mitchell Pearce (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
21st March, 2022
19

Every year a large contingent of NRL players, both established stars and still hopefuls, leave Australia seeking adventure, fame or just an opportunity to prolong their playing careers and earn a few more dollars.

Some even discover a distant English aunt and end up playing for Great Britain.

The English Super League is awash with former NRL players and, for most, it marks the end of their careers, with few returning to the NRL.

This year was no exception, and here’s a little team who have headed to the ESL in 2022, probably never to return to the NRL.

1. Will Hopoate (St Helens)
Still only 29, Hoppa is a wholehearted player who’ll do well and will no doubt be back for Tonga in this year’s World Cup.

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2. David Fusitu’a (Leeds Rhinos)
At 27 years of age Fusitu’a still has a large chunk of his career ahead of him. I’d expect him to score a heap of tries at Headingly.

3. Joey Leiluia (Featherstone Rovers)
What can you say about BJ? He had a disappointing end to his NRL career where his poor form and attitude was everyone else’s fault and a disappointing start in the UK.

Joseph Leilua

Joey Leilua (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

4. Cade Cust (Wigan Warriors)
At just 23, Cust is young enough to make it back to the NRL if his career develops.

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5. Nene Macdonald (Leigh Centurions)
Macdonald didn’t set the NRL alight and actually played Queensland cup in 2021, but he made a great start in England running in six tries in five games.

6. Brodie Croft (Salford Red Devils)
Another young player who has promised so much and delivered so little. At just 24, a little time out of the spotlight might just be the making of Croft.

7. Mitchell Pearce (Catalans Dragons)
Pearce has nothing to prove and should enjoy his time in the south of France. 

8. Kaide Ellis (Wigan Warriors)
A big bopper and just 25 years of age, Ellis should benefit from the regular starts he’ll get, provided he can avoid further suspensions.

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9. Danni Levi (Huddersfield Giants)
Good hookers are hard to find so it was a surprise to see Levi head overseas. We’ll see him in a Samoan jersey come the World Cup.

10. Patrick Mago (Wigan Warriors)
Mago is a big forward who has struggled to make an impact in his five seasons in the NRL but is still young enough at 27 to thrive.

11. Curtis Sironen (St Helens)
Young Sirro is big, experienced, skilful and versatile, and could be one of the success stories for St Helens this season.

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12. Shane Wright (Salford Red Devils)
Still only 26, Wright didn’t kick-on with the Cowboys after showing a lot of early promise and will be looking for better opportunities.

13. John Asiata (Leigh Centurions)
One of the more skilful forwards to take the field in recent years, let’s hope his anti-vax stance doesn’t cost him a place in the World Cup.

14. Joey Lussick (St Helens)
Lussick was a big success with Salford during his last stint in England and after just one season back in Australia with Parramatta returns to England.

15. Kane Evans (Hull FC)
Evans is a big unit and can be destructive on his day provided that he carefully follows the instructions written on his wrist.

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16. Dylan Napa (Catalans Dragons)
Often one club’s loss is another club’s gain, but I feel that this may not hold true in Napa’s case.

17. Sam Stone (Leigh Centurions)
Stone’s a better player than his 39 NRL games in five seasons would suggest, and at 26 years of age, has plenty of time to make a name for himself.

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