Sam Tomkins joined the New Zealand Warriors this season after they paid a big transfer fee for the young Englishmen some in England claimed to be one of the very best players in the world.
I reviewed Tomkins form earlier in the season and now that we are at the halfway point of the season I think it is fair to do a bit of an update.
The biggest change in Sam Tomkins from earlier in the season is that he looks physically stronger than he did when he arrived at the New Zealan Warriors. It is most evident when he runs the ball, he seems to have more explosive power and is starting to push tacklers off which is something that wasn’t happening earlier in the season. In the earlier rounds of the NRL season when defenders got a hand on him, that was it, he was getting tackled. Now Tomkins is starting to be able to get away from defenders.
I think his running action looks a lot more sturdy as well. He just looks a lot harder to tackle now, and that is what he needed if he was going to survive in the NRL. He still needs to put more weight on but it is good to see he has put in the hard work over the course of the season to physically get himself towards the level he needs to be at.
In attack he is a lot more confident now. I’ve mentioned a number of times that he has great footwork and the natural passing game of a five-eighth. He has started to kick the ball a little more as the season goes on and to me that is once again a good sign that he isn’t letting his game stagnate, he is trying to improve as a player.
Defensively as a fullback he still really isn’t close to being at a first grade level. His positioning is improving a little but he does still get caught out from time to time. Under the high ball he isn’t great but where he really gets let down is having to tackle players one-on-one and trying to hold a player up over the line.
In the NRL even a forward that has broken through into the backfield can have the footwork and speed to go all the way. Everyone is dangerous with a bit of space. Tomkins really gets caught out when the focus is all on him to shut a play down. I think as he gets bigger and gets a bit more confidence in his defense he will get better, but right now he isn’t very good at all.
When the Warriors bought Sam Tomkins to the club he was always going to be a work in progress. I think a lot of people expected him to step in and be a superstar straight away. That was never going to happen.
Playing in the NRL is a huge step up from what Tomkins is used to. He needs to be looked as like a good Under 20’s player that has stepped up to first grade and will need some time to find his feet, get up to speed, and get to the physical level needed to compete against the big boys.
The really encouraging thing is that for all of the problems with his game, he is improving. You can see he is putting the effort in. Not once has he ever looked like he has been discouraged by the challenge of playing in the NRL. In fact, he looks to be relishing the opportunity to learn, to improve and to do it while playing against the best players in the world.
The Sam Tomkins we see today is better than the Sam Tomkins that arrived at the New Zealand Warriors. He will be better again by the time he turns up to play for England at the end of the year.
How good a player he will be in three years time will be interesting to see. Whether he can step up to truly be one of the games elite players isn’t really an issue. What he has done already, the work he has put in, and the chance he has taken to play in the NRL, that is a sign of the character of Sam Tomkins already.
I see this as the making of Sam Tomkins. I have a feeling that when he turns up to play for England at the end of the year he will be a different player and a different person. I think he will be a leader and a real asset to the England squad.
It is great to see a player like Tomkins in the NRL who is striving to be the best player he can be. Lets hope more English players take up that challenge in the future.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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