Penrith is a long way from Blackpool.
Harry Rushton will complete his journey from a rugby league child prodigy in the north west of England, to an NRL player in the west of Sydney on Sunday.
This weekend, Harry will become Raider #382 and our sixth Englishman to play first grade for the club after Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton and George Williams blazed the path of northern Englishmen making the pilgrimage to the nation’s capital down under.
Side note: Shout out to Jordan Turner who also tried his hand at this NRL thing and despite over 200 Super League games experience under his belt, couldn’t get himself a Raiders number.
The Australian media quickly labelled Harry as a John Bateman replacement.
But the references to Harry being our new John Bateman are lazy and inaccurate. It’s like calling all Fijian backs “Fijian flyers”.
Other than being born in the same country, playing in the forwards and playing for Wigan, they couldn’t be more dissimilar. While Bateman made his name as a tough but wiry player who ran hard lines and was very tricky to tackle, Rushton is a bigger body, fitter and with more traditional playing abilities.
He was identified as a talent from a very young age. The Shevington Sharks junior, captained his country at youth level in the U16’s in a test against France..
Rushton then progressed through the youth academy at Wigan and impressed the coaching staff along the way with his hard work ethics. He was destined for the big time.
Before he had even made his mark on the Super League, he was snapped up by the late great Peter Mullholland on a three year development deal as a 18 year old. His development was always going to be a long game for the Raiders.
“Harry is one of the most promising young back-rowers in the United Kingdom,” Raiders high-performance director Peter Mulholland said at the time.
“We’ve had a lot of success with the Englishmen that we’ve brought over and Harry is another player who we see as having a lot of potential and who will fit in with our organisation.”
As a 19 year old, he made his Super League debut for Wigan in the local derby against St Helens in May 2020. Games don’t get much tougher than the derby but he accounted well for himself as his Warriors had to make plenty of tackles in a heavy defeat.
Now 20, this journey has a long way to go, but I am sure Pete and the Raiders must feel like proud parents as they watch their Gap Year student debut this weekend. And we’re all there with them.
He came to us as an edge back rower with great promise. But he is fit as a fiddle and can run a 5K time trial in an incredibly quick 20 minutes. That’s elite backs numbers.
So when PVL changed the game to the wide running and fast paced V’Landy’s ball, the Raiders identified Harry as someone who could play the new version of lock in the coming years. Dan writes in a bit more detail about how Harry could fill the void we are yet to fill at #13.
Now stay with me, whilst this stats nerd pours over his NSW Cup statistics. He’s played 15 games in reserve grade scoring five tries, which is a great return for a forward. He’s played at back row, lock and prop, but this season is sticking to the middle. In 2022, he is averaging 122 running metres per game and has made 201 tackles at 94%. That’s right up there with the best.
The time is right for him to now show us what he has got in first grade. Much like his Wigan debut, he won’t get a much tougher test. He takes on the rampaging Panthers with one of the best packs in the comp.
Andrew Voss is $1.13 to mention the mighty Shevington Sharks as he runs onto the pitch for the first time.
We wish him, his family and friends all the best for his debut. The match is the perfect Sunday morning treat in the UK. Kick off will be 7:05am for them in Old Blighty and the bacon butty’s will be a plenty in Blackpool.
Go well Harry.