GARETH Widdop has been hailed as a new version of rugby league icon Darren Lockyer by new St George-Illawarra team-mate Ben Hunt.
The England international, who switched from stand-off to full-back in the World Cup, has made a fine start to the season, with the Dragons two wins from two after beating Cronulla 20-16.
And half-back partner Hunt lavished praise on the Halifax-born ace by comparing him to Australian legend Lockyer.
“I’d put Gareth up there with Darren Lockyer the way he does everything at training,” Hunt said.
“You come into a game and he’s the type of player, that if I do my job, he’s going to be even better.
“The more I can do in the game to open it up for him, we’re going to do a lot of damage this year.”
Widdop is not the only Englishman at St George-Illawarra, but former St Helens boss Ian Millward has revealed James Graham’s path there started at Featherstone Rovers.
“I remember he was selected in the England under-18s against the Australian Schoolboys,” he said.
“It was played at Featherstone, a bitterly cold night and no-one was there. But when they started singing the national anthem, he sang it so loud and so passionate that I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this will be interesting. I hope he can back it up’.
“But he was outstanding and I thought to myself, ‘This bloke is probably the future of English rugby league.’”
Joe Greenwood again sat out Gold Coast Titans’ match, a 20-8 loss at New Zealand Warriors, while Chris McQueen’s comeback continued in Wests Magpies’ New South Wales Cup win over Newcastle Knights, a game that saw ex-Hull man Mahe Fonua score a try, former Leigh man Josh Drinkwater kick five goals and one time Hull KR ace Ken Sio score a try and three goals.
Sam Burgess was cleared to play on after being charged with making dangerous contact with Penrith’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard during South Sydney’s 18-14 loss.
And England team-mate Chris Heighington was a happy man after Newcastle Knights saw off Elliott Whitehead’s Canberra Raiders 30-28.
Heighington said: “They’re a big team and very experienced, so to come to Canberra and get the win, it builds a lot of confidence moving onto the next round.
“We can play a lot better that’s for sure. It’s a good thing when you get a win when you’re not playing your best, but it’s definitely something we can build on.
“There were a few little off loads, probably letting them have too many shots at us on their own line, and you know every team is going to score points against you when you give them four or five sets in a row.”
One player who watched that game was injured England hooker Josh Hodgson, who is using his time recovering from the knee injury picked up in England’s World Cup semi-final win over Tonga doing some coaching for his clubmates.
“He’s pretty much another coach at training, not only to us as dummy-halves, but the whole team in general actually,” revealed Siliva Havili.