Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Warriors hunt versatile British finisher with star quality

Warriors target Sam Tomkins is a try-scoring machine at Wigan. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors target Sam Tomkins is a try-scoring machine at Wigan. Photo / Getty Images

As British talent begins to make an impact on the NRL, Wigan superstar Sam Tomkins has been targeted by the Warriors.

Tomkins is a try-scoring machine, regarded as one of the best players in the Super League. He has made his name as a flying fullback but would also add depth to the halves, as he starred for Wigan at No6 and 7 early in his career.

Chief executive Wayne Scurrah and recruitment manager Dean Bell have spent much of the past fortnight in England, visiting Super League clubs and meeting agents and players.

The Herald on Sunday understands the Warriors duo met representatives of Tomkins, as well as several other high profile players.

When Owen Glenn and Eric Watson announced their new partnership agreement, there was some talk of big-money signings, and Tomkins would fit that bill.

He is said to be the highest paid player in the Super League, earning £200,000-£250,000 ($362,000- $453,000) a season at Wigan, who upgraded his contract in 2011.

Tomkins is contracted to Wigan until 2016 but is believed to be considering a move after this year's Rugby League World Cup.

The Warriors would have competition for his signature, as English rugby clubs are also interested in the 24-year-old.

Tomkins' older brother Joel made the switch to rugby union in 2011 (from Wigan to Saracens).

Sam Tomkins made a one-off appearance for the Barbarians in 2011, scoring a try in their 60-11 defeat against the Wallabies.

Super League club Salford had a huge bid for Sam Tomkins turned down earlier this year and other NRL clubs are said to be in the mix.

Tomkins has scored 124 tries in 136 matches for Wigan, including an incredible 16 hat-tricks. He has also managed one try per game at international level (18 from 18), though many of these have come against France.

Now established in the No1 jersey, the 1.80m Tomkins would offer great utility value. He made his name in the halves, scoring 15 tries in 27 appearances in his first year in Super League in 2009 and was named Wigan's player of the year. Midway through the following season, then-Wigan coach and current Rabbitohs supremo Michael Maguire switched him to fullback. By the start of the 2011 season, Tomkins was the club's first choice fullback.

Apart from the early years, when Dennis Betts and Andy Platt were lured to Mt Smart, the Warriors have not generally pursued players from the United Kingdom.

But the success of recent recruits such as James Graham (Bulldogs), Gareth Widdop (Storm) and the four Burgess brothers at Souths (along with a favourable exchange rate), has made British talent more appealing to NRL clubs.

Coach Matt Elliott also has an extensive Super League background while Bell was a Wigan legend as a player and has also filled coaching roles there.

As well as scouting players, Scurrah and Bell were on a general fact-finding mission.

The Warriors hope to organise a 'sister club' arrangement with a top Super League side and are also looking into other commercial opportunities in the Northern Hemisphere.

- Herald on Sunday

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