Herbie Farnworth has been one of the stars of the Broncos’ 2022 renaissance, scoring four tries in seven games as part of a scintillating outside pairing with the rejuvenated Corey Oates.
Now, the stakes are set to rise even higher for the Burnley-born centre: he’s getting his first sit-down with England coach Shaun Wane, who is set to make his first trip to Australia to take in next weekend’s Magic Round in Brisbane.
Farnworth has been desperately unlucky not to have already represented his nation: he made his NRL debut for the Broncos late in 2019, too early for the nightmare Great Britain Lions tour of that year, and has been on the Australian side of the Covid border regulations ever since.
He missed both of last year’s fixtures, but has used the time to build as solid a case for inclusion as any of the uncapped players that Wane could include in his squad for the tournament.
With a home World Cup coming up at the end of the season, there is everything to play for and a coach to impress if Farnworth is to achieve his dream of pulling on the red and white in the opening game of the tournament at Newcastle’s St James’ Park stadium, where England will face Samoa in front of a likely 50,000 crowd.
Speaking exclusively to The Roar, Farnworth said that game in Newcastle was one of his main goals for the season, with winning the World Cup on home soil the ultimate dream.
“There’s the goal to have a solid season here with the Broncos and to win some games, and then obviously the goal to play in the World Cup side for England, and hopefully we go on to win it,” he said.
“He (Wane) is coming over next week so we’re going to catch up for a coffee.
“I’ve actually not met him in person before. I’ve met him over Zoom meetings but since Covid we’ve not been able to see each other. He’s coming to Magic Round.”
Wane facing a difficult task in picking his starting centres for the World Cup. Their most recent fixture had Reece Lyne and Zak Hardaker in the centres – unlikely to be repeated at the World Cup – but there is a depth of talent in the position.
New Wests Tigers signing Oliver Gildart featured for Great Britain in 2019, while Mark Percival of St Helens has been a standout for several years in Super League. John Bateman, current England captain, has played there in the past.
Farnworth said it was hard for him to compare the talent because the role differed so much between Super League and the NRL.
“It’s hard to compare, because I’ve not played Super League, but when I first came into the NRL, it’s so quick and tight around the ruck. Every metre is hard to get,” he said.
“In the NRL, everything is based on D and trying to limit yards. It’s a hard competition.
“Here, the backs are working a lot in yardage and from what I see of Super League, there’s a lot more emphasis on getting on the end of shape. It’s just a difference in style.”
The challenge for the Brisbane centre is simply to be the best he can be, and make such an impression on the coach that he has to pick him.
For Farnworth, returning home – where he has never played as an adult – would be the culmination of years of effort.
“I have to get in the team first, and I don’t want to get too excited yet,” he said.
“If I get the chance, it will mean everything to me. Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of playing for England and walking out in my home country would be unbelievable.
“I get a lot of people thinking I’m half Australian, but I’m definitely not! I lived all my life in England and moved out here when I was 17 to try and crack the NRL.
“It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work, I left all my family and friends at home, so going back home to play for England would be unbelievable to be honest.
“It’ll be nice to play over in England, because I’ve not played there since I was 16. I played all my amateur footy over there with Wigan St Pats and then Newton Storm, but I’ve not played there as an adult.
“I’ve got a following from where I’m from in England, who always watch my games, plus my friends and family. It’ll be nice to go over and play for England and do well for my country.”