Thompson spruiks Super League path for fledgling NRL players
Wed 31 Jul 2019, 09:00 A
An English sojourn revitalised Corey Thompson and the Wests Tigers fullback believes more NRL players should consider mid-career stints in the Super League.
While many Australian players head to England for a career swansong, few have moved mid-career before coming back to establish themselves as genuine NRL starters like Thompson.
After breaking out with the Bulldogs in 2015, Thompson’s first-grade chances dried up late the next season, leading him to join Widnes Vikings.
Thompson scored 40 tries in 57 games across two seasons at Widnes under the tutelage of former Tigers custodian Brett Hodgson. His stellar form resulted in a deal with the Concord-based club last year.
“I knew I could give more to the NRL and I went to England to play consistent first-grade footy,” Thompson told NRL.com.
“My second year at the Dogs, I was in and out of first grade and wasn’t really getting a consistent run at things. Sometimes that’s what you have to do; you have to move on to come back to a better situation. I’m really happy how it worked out.”
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The 29-year-old now ranks among the Tigers’ most reliable players having missed just a handful of matches through injury since 2018. He was rewarded with a two-year contract extension earlier this year.
Thompson says a Super League detour is worth considering for developing NRL players in lieu of plugging away in either Canterbury Cup NSW or the Intrust Super Cup.
Former Canterbury forward Rhyse Martin, ex-Eels flyer Bevan French, Roosters halfback Brock Lamb and South Sydney prop George Burgess have recently signed to English clubs, while Aussies Jackson Hastings and Blake Austin are neck-and-neck in the 2019 Man of Steel standings.
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Thompson thinks they can follow his path and return to the NRL as better players.
“Hopefully boys like [Rhyse] Martin go to Super League, build confidence and come back to the NRL if that’s what they want to do,” Thompson said.
“Some young players really enjoy it over in the Super League. But I just really missed Australia and the NRL, so I was really happy to come home.”
With more games per season in England between the Super League and Challenge Cup, Thompson improved and saw rugby league from fresh angles.
“You play some quality sides over in England. You play in a different atmosphere and learn different things from the English - the English coaches obviously have different things to the Australian coaches,” he said.
“I had Brett Hodgson there as well, so I was really lucky to learn off him. He developed some of my fullback game over in England.”
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Now wearing the Tigers No.1 jumper that premiership-winning Hodgson once owned, Thompson is thrilled to be in his preferred position after opening the year as a winger.
He has surpassed 140 run metres in four of his past five outings while nabbing four tries, including a double in last round’s 28-26 victory over Newcastle.
“Growing up in Brisbane I played fullback and during Queensland [Intrust Super] Cup I played a mixture of fullback and wing. When I went to the Bulldogs, Dessie [Hasler] threw me on the wing and I stayed there for 95 per cent of my time at the Bulldogs,” Thompson said.
“I had to develop the skill set of a winger. I think it’s good to always be able to play more than one position.”
Thompson thrives on the added responsibility of playing fullback, knowing he’ll have a big effect on matches - good and bad.
“There’s more pressure. Your errors are more costly to the team than a winger. I really enjoy that role to impact a game and having the pressure to stuff a game up,” Thompson said.
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