British players were comprehensively snubbed last night, when they failed to carry off a single prize in the International Player of the Year Awards.
The Kangaroo full-back, Billy Slater, was named Player of the Year for the second time in four years, beating his Melbourne and Australia team-mate, Cameron Smith, and the New Zealand captain, Benji Marshall.
The Brisbane winger, Jharal Yow Yeh, won the Young Player award, with Manly’s Des Hasler the Coach of the Year, from a short-list including Brian McDermott of Leeds.
More of a slap in the face is the failure of any British player to win any of the awards as the best in the world in his position. That is something England could use as an extra motivational tool as they prepare to face Australia at Wembley on Saturday.
England’s Brisbane centre, Jack Reed, is expecting to face Greg Inglis, fit again after a ten-week lay-off, in that match.
“He’s an absolute phenomenon of a player and it will be a great challenge,” he said.
New Zealand yesterday became the first to name their team for the Gillette Four Nations double-header.
Their coach, Stephen Kearney, has made three changes for the maych against Wales.
He has brought in Adam Blair after suspension, Nathan Fien and the 21-year-old Elijah Taylor, the New Zealand Warriors’ second-row, who will win his first cap at the end of a successful first season in the NRL.
Isaac Luke, cautioned for his notorious “cannonball” tackle this week, is one of those given the weekend off, along with Simon Mannering and Kalifa Faifai Loa.
Swinton have signed David Mills, who could well have been in the Welsh squad but for injury, from Leigh.
Swinton, who will be sharing Leigh’s stadium next season, have already recruited their centre, Adam Higson, and are hoping to add their second-rower, James Taylor.
Wigan have confirmed the signing of the Tongan prop or second-row, Epalahame Lauaki, on a three-year contract. The 27-year-old forward has spent the last two seasons playing for Hull. He replaces Ryan Hoffman on Wigan’s overseas quota.
Wigan are also expected to complete the signings of the young Welsh forwards, Gil Dudson and Ben Flower, at the end of the Four Nations.
Both played for Crusaders last season and Dudson was particularly impressive for Wales against England last Saturday.