27th May 2020, 16:03 | nrl
English youngster Herbie Farnworth is being groomed as the long term replacement for former Kangaroos star Darius Boyd after earning a regular spot in Brisbane top 17-man squad.
Farnworth, who was a member of Manchester United’s junior academy before moving to Australia as a 15-year, will play off the interchange bench in the opening match of the rebooted NRL season against Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
The 20-year-old has appeared in all of the Broncos matches this season and while his ability to play centre, fullback and wing has secured him a bench spot Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold believes he has the speed and talent to become a top winger.
“He can play a utility role in the No.14 because he is so versatile, but I see him long term as an excellent winger,” Seibold said this week. “He is a great finisher and runs the ball with real intent.
“Darius Boyd will be retiring later this year, so that will open up another spot next year for younger guys like Herbie, Xavier Coates and Tesi Niu.”
While Farnworth has attracted interest from rival NRL clubs, Seibold believes he has a great future at the Broncos and said the club was determined to keep him.
“He has worked hard to get his opportunity in the NRL so we have no plans to lose him,” Seibold said. “Herbie has a huge future here and his next challenge is to cement a starting position.”
Another Englishman in high demand is Canberra second-rower John Bateman after the Raiders gave him permission to talk to rival clubs ahead of Saturday night’s match against Melbourne at AAMI Park.
Bateman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. wants to stay in Canberra with English team-mates Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead and George Williams but salary cap restrictions may force the Bradford product elsewhere and he has already been linked with Canterbury and Gold Coast.
The Bulldogs, who have signed St Helens prop Luke Thompson for 2021, are keen to emulate Canberra’ success with English recruits and have declared their interest in Bateman.
Other Englishman in action in round three of the NRL, which ends a 62-day shutdown of the competition, are South Sydney prop Thomas Burgess and St George Illawarra veteran James Graham.
Burgess will start upfront in the latest instalment of the NRL’s oldest rivalry between the Rabbitohs and fellow 1908 foundation club Sydney Roosters at Bankwest Stadium on Friday night, which will feature Latrell Mitchell against the club he left in bitter circumstances during the off-season.
Former England coach Wayne Bennett has opted to retain Mitchell at fullback, despite mixed performances in his first two appearances for the Rabbitohs.
Graham has been named at lock for St George Illawarra’s clash with the New Zealand Warriors after Dragons coach Paul McGregor decided to leave former Leeds captain Trent Merrin out of his 17-man squad for the clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday.
Former Catalans centre Brayden Williame has retained his place in the centres for St George Illawarra ahead of Samoa international Tim Lafai and ex-Scotland international Euan Aitken.
The Warriors have become the second favourite team of many fans after the sacrifices the players have made by travelling to Australia without their families to enter quarantine for two weeks ahead of the match against the Dragons.
They will remain in camp in Gosford until the borders between Australia and New Zealand re-open.