Great Britian coach Wayne Bennett as divided opinions with the announcement of the first Great Britian squad for over a decade for the upcoming tour to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea yesterday.
The 24 man squad which will be captained by veteran Prop forward James Graham (pictured) who has five Great Britian caps to his name and is the only sole survivor from the last GB squad back in 2007. The squad also includes three players that are all Australian born but qualify vis their parents or grand parents’ heritage such as Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings who’s grand parent was born in Plymouth.
The other two are Warrington’s half back Blake Austin and St Helens Full Back Lachlan Coote, the latter having also represented Scotland in both the four nations and World Cup in previous years.
Other new faces to the international stage are Castleford’s teenage half back Jake Trueman and Salford’s Josh Jones who capped off a momentous personal weekend which saw him play in the Grand Final on Saturday, before getting married on Sunday and receiving his first international call up on Monday.
The biggest club representation is from Warrington who have five players, while Grand Final Winners St Helens have four and there are another nine clubs from either Super League or the NRL with players involved.
One of the most noticeable things with the squad are the absentee’s as 2018 Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson who played 38 mins of the grand final with a dislocated his shoulder , joins a long list of casualties that includes former England captains Sean O’Loughlin and Sam Burgess, Makinson’s st Helens team mates James Roby, Mark Percival and Matty Lee’s, Gold Coast and former Leeds Rhino’s skipper Kallum Watkins, Luke Gale and Ben Currie all of whom would have been a shoe in for selection if fit and in form.
The diversity of the squad as also come into question as after years of having to play with make shift half backs the squad now consists of Six, three of which have played regularly at NRL level with another joining their grand finalists Canberra Raiders next season.
The full back spot is also up for graps with Coote, Gareth Widdop, Zak Hardaker and Jonny Lomax all able to play in the number one shirt.
Winger is a little different with only two recognised speedsters and centre is also rather short of traditional options with only Oliver Gildart playing that postion regularly at club level, although Jake Connor has slotted in at centre for Hull FC on a number of occasions and John Bateman made an excellent account of his self in the centres during the 2017 World Cup earning a starting spot in the final while Zak Hardaker’s last international appearance against Samoa that year was also in the centres.
The pack itself although missing some key names, still looks divesting with Graham, Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley and Tom Burgess all looking to partner up with Canberra Raiders skipper Josh Hodgeson in the front row.
Again with the Raiders theme if Bateman remains in his more accustomed position of second row he partner up with fellow Raider Elliot Whitehead, With Warrington’s Jack Hughes expected to take the Loose forward shirt.
Off the bench the options continue as Daryl Clark, Joe Philbin and Josh Jones all offer their unique talents that can change a game.
The tour will start with a game against Tonga on October 26th before two games against New Zealand on the 2nd and 9th November and finishing with a trip to Papua New Guinea on Nov 16th.
Full GB Lions squad: James Graham (St George Illawarra Dragons) Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves) John Bateman (Canberra Raiders) Tom Burgess (South Sydney) Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves) Jake Connor (Hull FC) Lachlan Coote (St Helens) Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors) Zak Hardaker (Wigan Warriors) Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils) Ryan Hall (Sydney Roosters) Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves) Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders) Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves) Josh Jones (Salford Red Devils) Jonny Lomax (St Helens) Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants) Joe Philbin (Warrington Wolves) Luke Thompson (St Helens) Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers) Alex Walmsley (St Helens) Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders) Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons) George Williams (Wigan Warriors).