Top 10 Super League success stories
With a scorching Canberra summer and a disciplinarian awaiting him in coach Ricky Stuart, Dave Taylor's prospective return to the NRL in 2017 after an ill-fated year with Catalans Dragons is likely to present the greatest challenge of his career. The good news for the 'Coal Train' – and the Raiders for that matter – is that success after Super League is not an uncommon occurrence.
Here are 10 players who went to the Northern Hemisphere yet returned to make a major impact in the NRL.
10. Scott Logan
The most notable aspect to Scott Logan's inclusion in this list is that he returned to an NRL club after an English stint not once, but twice during his career. Debuting with the Roosters in 1996, Logan played 50 games for Hull FC before having two seasons with the rebuilding Rabbitohs. A one-season stint with Wigan in 2006 was followed by four years at Canberra where the Raiders were quarter-finalists in 2008 and semi-finalists in 2010.
9. Thomas Leuluai
Thomas Leuluai was a starting five-eighth for the Warriors less than three weeks after turning 18 years of age but shocked many a year later when he signed to play for the London Broncos. He spent two injury-disrupted seasons in London before signing to play with Wigan, playing 188 games across six years with one of league's most powerful clubs. Since returning to New Zealand in 2013 he has proven to be the perfect foil for superstar half Shaun Johnson but after 64 games for the Warriors he is again returning to play with Wigan from next season, still just 31 years of age.
8. Nigel Vagana
Nigel Vagana made a solitary top grade appearance for the Warriors in 1996 before moving to Super League where he spent the 1997 season with Warrington, scoring 21 tries. Those try-scoring exploits would be on full display when he came back to the NRL in 1998, scoring 37 tries across three seasons with the Warriors before linking with the Bulldogs, where he twice scored more than 20 tries in a season. His haul of 23 in 2002 – including scoring five in a single game against the Rabbitohs – stands today as the equal-most tries scored by a Bulldogs player in a single season.
7. Sam Moa
Despite spending time at the Wests Tigers and making his NRL debut for the Sharks in 2008, Sam Moa had barely registered on the rugby league radar before upping stumps and moving to Hull FC in 2 2009. There he teamed up with Willie Manu and Epalahame Lauaki to form the 'Tongan Mafia' but it was on his return to the NRL with the Roosters in 2013 that he really started holding opposition defences hostage with his unbridled charges. He was a key figure in the Roosters' premiership that season and was considered unlucky to not be awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as the best player in the grand final. Moa is returning to Super League in 2017 with the Catalans Dragons.
6. Tonie Carroll
Five Tests for New Zealand and seven Tests for Australia; it should come as no surprise that Tonie Carroll had little trouble adapting to different environments and conditions. Carroll farewelled the Broncos for the first time after their 2000 premiership win over the Roosters to join the Leeds Rhinos, where he scored 31 tries in 50 games across two seasons. Wayne Bennett brought the rugged back-rower back to Brisbane in 2003 where he played a further 129 games for the club, including starting at lock in the 2006 Grand Final win and playing five-eighth in Brisbane's 2009 Preliminary Final loss to Melbourne. His seven Tests for Australia and 10 of his 18 Origin games for Queensland came during his second stint in the NRL.
5. Ryan Hoffman
Squeezed out of the Storm in the wake of the club's salary cap scandal, Hoffman went to Wigan in 2011, won a Challenge Cup Final, toured the world with his wife and came back to Melbourne somehow a more complete player than when he left. In his first year back he won a premiership with the Storm and for the next three years became a staple of the New South Wales forward pack, taking his total of Origin games from five to 14 and winning the Brad Fittler Medal as the Blues' best player in 2014. After 245 games for the Storm Hoffman joined the Warriors on a four-year deal in 2015 and has since played 41 games for the club.
4. Allan Langer
Allan Langer's cameo return from Warrington in 2001 may have been brief but it proved to be one of the most audacious coaching decisions of Wayne Bennett's illustrious career. Less than a month from his 35th birthday Langer was brought back to Queensland under cloak and dagger for the Game Three series decider where he put on a mercurial display only the truly great are capable of delivering. He mesmerised a Blues defence that had fought back to level the series in Game Two and then returned to England, only to come back for one final year at Red Hill in 2002. While not at his absolute peak, Brisbane lost only three of the 18 games Langer played in 2002 before the little champion said his final farewells following their 16-12 loss to the Roosters in the preliminary final.
3. Blake Green
An Australian Schoolboys representative in 2004, it was obvious that Blake Green had talent but for whatever reason in three separate stints at the Eels, Sharks and Bulldogs the Cabramatta junior was unable to cement himself as an NRL-quality half. With opportunities dwindling he joined Hull KR on a two-year deal before moving to Wigan where he was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy as the best player of the 2013 Super League Grand Final, playing through the pain of a fractured eye socket that he suffered in the opening minutes of the game. When he made his return to the NRL with the Storm in 2015 it was evident that he had matured into a high-class playmaker, missing just three games in two seasons in Melbourne and forming a scrumbase combination with Cooper Cronk that took the Storm to a minor premiership and grand final this season. He has signed to play with Manly in 2017.
2. Sia Soliola
Iosia Soliola was a good player over five seasons for the Roosters – a New Zealand Test representative no less – but after five years in England he came back to the NRL as a fearsome forward who has been credited for driving the Raiders renaissance under coach Ricky Stuart. A blockbusting centre when he debuted for the Roosters in 2005, Soliola switched between the backs and forwards across five years at St Helens, leaving a grand final try-scorer and winner at the end of the 2014 season. Soliola was 28 years of age when he made his debut for the Raiders in Round 1, 2015, going on to win the Mal Meninga Medal as the club's best and fairest that season.
1. Jamie Lyon
At 22 years of age and with the rugby league world at his feet, country kid at heart Jamie Lyon quit the spotlight of playing for Parramatta so that he could return home to Wee Waa to play for the Panthers in the Group 4 competition. The Eels blocked that and a move to Manly from happening so Lyon went to St Helens where he won the Man of Steel award as Super League's best player in his first season in 2005. In 2006 Lyon and St Helens won both the Challenge Cup Final and Super League Grand Final before returning to the NRL with the Sea Eagles in 2007. Since that time until his retirement this season Lyon amassed 224 games for the Sea Eagles, was named Dally M Centre of the Year four times and RLIF Centre of the Year twice. Was he better than before he left? Hard to know but he was bloody good when he came back.
This article first appeared on NRL.com