The 2017 domestic season ended miserably for Gareth Widdop, who could not prevent his St George Illawarra Dragons side slipping out of the NRL’s top eight and missing out on the finals, despite looking almost certain to qualify just a couple of months ago.
Widdop’s attention will now be turning to his national side, where he will be looking to help England overcome Australia and New Zealand and get back to the summit of world rugby league, after the southern hemisphere have dominated the World Cup over the last 20 years.
The likelihood is that Wayne Bennett – England’s head-coach – will put his faith in Widdop alongside George Williams or Luke Gale in the halves, with the hope that the St George captain can repeat his 2017 form on the international scene to fire the Wall of White to World Cup glory.
As fantasy managers and followers of the NRL will know, Widdop has been exceptional through 2017, with the player fully deserving of an opportunity to play in the finals. However, the Dragons’ failure could prove to benefit England, with the five-eighth linking up with his national team determined to end the year on a high.
Australia are currently priced at $1.25 to win the World Cup on home soil, with OLBG providing customers with the latest rugby advice and 67% confidence that 2017 will be the year of the Kangaroo, but England and Widdop will have different ideas.
Widdop could have a big influence on the competition later this year, with the 28-year-old Yorkshireman consistently showing his class for St George throughout the 2017 campaign. The Dragons’ captain finished the NRL season as the competition’s second-highest point scorer, bagging 191 points despite only featuring on 21 occasions.
The English five-eighth proved to be the key creative cog for the Dragons throughout the 2017 NRL season, with Widdop grabbing ten tries and adding a whopping 18 try assists to that tally, which was only bettered by a handful of players, who made a lot more appearances – leaving Widdop as one of the competition’s most valuable players in fantasy leagues.
GOOD LUCK @garethwiddop
— England Rugby League (@England_RL) September 11, 2017
England will, of course, have other potential match winners in their squad for the World Cup, but with Widdop’s season cut surprisingly short, he will be well-rested heading into the competition and wanting to prove to his adopted country that he is among the world’s best.
Some of the English Super League’s top talent will be on show in the southern hemisphere later this year, and players including Williams and Gale – who will compete with Widdop for a starting berth in the halves – are sure to bring some excitement to the World Cup, having a combined total of 48 try assists for Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers respectively in 2017.
Despite others representing England in the World Cup, a lot of eyes will be on Widdop, who will be looking to impress after such a disappointing end to the 2017 NRL campaign. Australian fantasy managers have watched on as Widdop has impressed for the Dragons throughout the year, but their admiration could turn to envy, as the five-eighth aims to guide England to world domination.