The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Sam Tomkins will officially announce he will join the New Zealand Warriors in 2014 in a joint statement that will involve his current clubs the Wigan Warriors.
Tomkins has been heavily linked to a number of NRL clubs in recent months, with most bulking at an asking price that would make Tomkins one of the highest paid players in Rugby League.
The New Zealand Warriors have spent a lot of time and effort looking at players in Great Britain in recent months. Tomkins was always at the top of their list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of a few more England players heading to Auckland over the coming weeks.
Considering that the Warriors already have Kevin Locke and Glen Fisiiahi, a big money move to secure the services of Tomkins is a very brave move. While Locke recently suggested he would happily move to five-eighth to accommodate Tomkins, its hard to see how the Warriors could accommodate all three players under their salary cap.
This is big move by Sam Tomkins. To decide to play for the New Zealand Warriors is an interesting choice. The pressures he will face in New Zealand will be very different to what he could have expected playing for an Australian based club. The scrutiny will be far less and I tend to think Warriors fans will give him more time to settle in than an Australian fan base would.
To choose to play in a side whose results in 2013 have been mixed suggests to me that Tomkins is very confident in his ability to make a difference at the club. A lot of players would have looking to try and link up with a club that was a little more competitive, and you have to give Tomkins credit for that.
So, who is Sam Tomkins?
Tomkins is a 24 year old fullback Premiership winning fullback for the Wigan Warriors. He has very good footwork and an eye for spotting a weaknesses in the defensive line.
In Super League, Tomkins is known for his ability to care through a defense and score from anywhere on the field. I tend to think his ability to attack from fullback in the NRL will be severely tested though.
By any measure, Sam Tomkins is a very slight player. He will stand out in the NRL because of his lack of weight. I think the better kicking games he will be facing in the NRL and the better kick chase defense he will see will severely hamper his natural attacking ability when he joins the Warriors next year.
Kick chase defenses in the NRL tend to be broken down by explosive speed or sheer power. Think Billy Slater and Jarryd Hayne. Tomkins in a good runner but he hasn’t got explosive speed. His size means he simply won’t overpower players when running the ball back. It is going to be an issue for him and one I think might force a positional change.
I think Tomkins is much better suited as a five-eighth in the NRL. Get him playing outside of a good halfback who can get him some early ball and he will be able to use his very good footwork to break down and oppositions defense out wide. He will have to work on his passing game a little, and his kicking game will be an issue, but I think he can cause much more damage at five-eighth than he will be able to at fullback.
His size is going to be an issue in defense, there is no getting around that. You won’t see Tomkins take a backward step, he will give it his all, but he will need to add some bulk if he wants to compete in the NRL at a high level.
If he plays at fullback his positioning won’t be too much of an issue, but there in one major hole in his game that can not be overlooked.
Under the high ball Sam Tomkins is horrible. He isn’t anywhere close to first grade level. In Super League he is a 50/50 proposition to catch a standard bomb. In the NRL he will be forced to catch spiral bombs under pressure.
The worry I have is that teams will find him out very early and simply shatter his confidence. The Warriors won’t be able to keep him at fullback if he keeps dropping bombs. That is another reason why I think he would be better suited to five-eighth. Unless Tomkins dramatically improves his ability under the high ball, this signing by the Warriors could go down as a terrible one.
I really hope that Tomkins in open to playing up in the attacking line for that reason and that he isn’t pining everything on only playing at fullback.
You have to give Sam Tomkins credit, at every step of the way through his career he has back himself with complete confidence. I have no doubt that Tomkins considers himself to be one of the very best players in the world.
There is a long list of English players that talked for years about playing in the NRL who never seriously considered making the move. Unlike players such as Adrian Morley, Gareth Ellis and the Burgess brother, many of Super Leagues star players have been happy to stick with their comfort zones in northern England.
Sam Tomkins is taking a huge leap here. His entire career will be judged on hope he adapts to play in the NRL with the New Zealand Warriors. If he plays well he will be treated like royalty, and no doubt his asking price on his return to England will be astronomical.
On the flip side, if he comes to the NRL and fails, that is it. He will not get a second chance to redeem himself in the eyes of Rugby League fans.
While I think it would have been a much better experience for him to play for an Australian club and be immersed in the Australian Rugby League culture, there is no doubt playing for the New Zealand Warriors is a bit of a softer landing for him. That is not a slight against the Warriors, I just think their fan base isn’t as cut throat as most Australian team are.
I hope Sam Tomkins does well in the NRL. I don’t think he will be an outstanding performer, and hopefully the experience will make him a better playing in the long term.
It will be interesting to see how the media in this part of the world takes to him. He is very outspoken and doesn’t get challenged on it in northern England. He will soon find that if he says the wrong thing or upsets people, he will become a national news story in Australian an New Zealand.
Sam Tomkins is about to test himself in the toughest sporting competition in the world. Good luck to the young bloke. More English players should test themselves against the world best. When its all said and done, we will know exactly how good of a Rugby League player Sam Tomkins really is.