Opinion: Burrell and SBW show the new-found attraction of Super League

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In the week where Warrington Wolves confirmed the signing of former England rugby union international Luther Burrell from Northampton Saints, Toronto Wolfpack are being strongly linked with a move for former NRL star and current New Zealand All Black Sonny-Bill Williams with owner David Argyle confirming that the Canadian club have approached the 33-year-old cross-code superstar.

“We would love to have him join the Wolfpack family and we will pay whatever it takes to make that happen,” Argyle told Fox Sports earlier in the week. “The excitement he would bring to the sport of rugby league in this country would be incredible,” he added, referring to the impact his arrival would bring to the sport in the UK. Indeed, Toronto are viewed as huge favourites to be playing in Super League next season and the sight of Sonny-Bill rampaging through the competition certainly would be a sight to behold.

With an array of NRL stars including Blake Austin and Konrad Hurrell arriving ahead of the 2019 Betfred Super League season and Gareth Widdop’s 2020 arrival at Warrington Wolves confirmed, the moves for Burrell and Williams suggest that the lure of Super League is growing after many years where fans felt the competition was stagnating. 

With new rule changes and high-profile moves being completed and rumoured, there is a genuine feel-good atmosphere around Super League once more whereby the most talented players in the world are seeming to look at the competition as one to venture to in their prime rather than for one final pay-day, a charge which had been often levelled at some NRL imports in the past.

The arrival of Burrell to the sport also indicates that the bleeding of talent from rugby league across codes to union may have, if not ended, dramatically slowed down. The Northampton man – who started his rugby career in Huddersfield as a league player – will join the Cheshire club at the end of the rugby union season this summer and his move to league comes at a time where he could easily have continued his career in union. Super League and rugby league, however, appear to be more appealing to these talented stars.

“I’m excited about the challenge ahead as it’s fresh for me,” 31-year-old Burrell told the media following the announcement earlier in the week. “I’ve had some great times in rugby union and I’ve had some adverse times so to have this opportunity to play rugby league and see how far I can get with a great team is exciting.”

After years where fans and former players bemoaned the lack of star players in the competition, the pendulum is now swinging in Super League’s favour. Robert Elstone has previously suggested that making stars out of our sport’s players is imperative for the future of the game – the likes of Burrell and Williams are two prime examples of possible candidates.

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