Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

NRL: Tomkins up to task - manager

Sam Tomkins says he was moved by the reception he received in downtown Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell
Sam Tomkins says he was moved by the reception he received in downtown Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell

Sam Tomkins, the most anticipated and exciting Warriors signing for years, will comfortably handle the high expectations according to one of the men who helped seal the deal with the Auckland NRL club.

Tomkins - signed from Wigan after a reportedly massive $1.38 million release fee was paid - and manager Andy Clarke are in Auckland for a week. Tomkins returns fulltime in the New Year. The Wigan and England wonder got the royal treatment in downtown Auckland yesterday via a powhiri.

"I wondered what the welcome would be like and to experience that was pretty humbling," he said.

The 24-year-old has a three-year contract worth about $750,000 per season and will be expected to exert a Steve Price-class influence, but his arrival has brought criticism. Former Kiwi coach Graham Lowe lamented the likely ousting of homegrown No1 Kevin Locke, and former Kiwi captain Matthew Ridge, a fullback himself, said it was a mistake to make a marquee signing in the position.

The pressure will be on Tomkins, who also plays in the halves, to lead a Warriors turnaround.

Clarke described Tomkins as a "freewheeling" character well equipped to do the job.

"He is a one-in-20-years player," said Clarke, whose brother Phil was a superb Wigan, Sydney Roosters and England forward.

"Sam is the best player out of England since Ellery Hanley. When I say best, some might say Andy Farrell or Paul Sculthorpe. But Sam has that X-factor, like Hanley. His performances in the last three or four years, the ability to make something out of nothing, are fabulous.

"He's stood up to anything thrown at him. He copped physical and verbal attacks - opponents really target him and he used to get a lot of abuse from away fans trying to put him off. None of it fazed him."

Warriors recruitment boss Dean Bell and chief executive Wayne Scurrah made the crucial visit to England when Tomkins was persuaded to sign. Tomkins told the Herald the Junior Warriors' regular success was a major attraction, indicating the club was positioned for an upward climb. He also liked the family atmosphere.

Four Australian clubs showed interest although one was in a location Tomkins didn't fancy, and another quickly faded from the chase. The Titans are believed to have been in the final hunt. Clarke said the Warriors built a case whereas the others struggled to back up promises.

"Obviously money was an important part," said Clarke.

To put a final stamp on the deal, Tomkins' mother Alison and a friend checked out Auckland and gave it the thumbs up.

"I'm a bit of a mummy's boy ... her opinion was never going to make or break the deal but it did help," said Tomkins. "Wigan is quite small and I really like going to London and Manchester ... I'm looking forward to living in a bigger place. I want to be part of creating something big at the Warriors. I will put in 110 per cent."

One of Tomkins' oldest school friends will also shift to Auckland, and the opening 2014 NRL clash will be against the Eels, who have recruited Lee Mossop, the Wigan prop.

The Warriors' welcoming committee includes Tomkins' old Wigan buddy Thomas Leuluai, whose unreserved recommendation to coach Matthew Elliott fired the Warriors' pursuit of Tomkins.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 20 Sep 2014 23:58:49 Processing Time: 484ms