Bennett selects trio of ‘Aussies’ in GB squad
GREAT Britain coach Wayne Bennett has named former NRL stars Blake Austin, Lachlan Coote and Jackson Hastings in his squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand and PNG.
The trio - who were all short-listed for the Man of Steel award, which was won by Hastings - qualified through the grandparent rule.
On Saturday, former Penrith and North Queensland fullback Coote joined an select group of players - including Danny Buderus, Adrian Morley and Pat Richards - who have won NRL and Super League grand finals.
Coote, who played for Scotland in the 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup, helped St Helens to victory over Hastings' Salford on Saturday at Old Trafford, capping off a stellar debut season in England.
Bennett said: "It was pretty tough actually, with a lot of players in contention.
"A couple of guys got injured and that's taken a bit of the pressure off and given a couple of other guys opportunities.
"I think we've got a pretty good squad which is more than representative of the best players in the game in England and Australia."
As expected, Bennett has appointed St George Illawarra enforcer James Graham as captain in the absence of Sean O'Loughlin and Sam Burgess.
Bennett said: "No one plays with more pride and passion than he does for his country, I can tell you."
Graham, 34, is the only member of the squad with previous experience of playing for Great Britain, having won five caps from 2006-7, and has made a record 44 England appearances. He is set to bring up a half-century of caps against Tonga in Hamilton on October 26.
"It's very emotional for me," said Graham, who will lead Great Britain for the first time after previously captaining England.
"It will have a history and tradition and it's something that resounds with the fans and our sport.
"They will be four incredibly difficult matches but the difficulty rating was always going to be high. It's a challenge for us, but as a group I think we're going to grow into that challenge."
GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD FOR NZ, PNG TOUR
James Graham (St George Illawarra, capt), Blake Austin (Warrington), John Bateman (Canberra), Tom Burgess (South Sydney), Daryl Clark (Warrington), Jake Connor (Hull FC), Lachlan Coote (St Helens), Oliver Gildart (Wigan), Zak Hardaker (Wigan), Jackson Hastings (Salford), Ryan Hall (Sydney Roosters), Chris Hill (Warrington), Josh Hodgson (Canberra), Jack Hughes (Warrington), Josh Jones (Salford), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield), Joe Philbin (Warrington), Luke Thompson (St Helens), Jacob Trueman (Castleford), Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra), George Williams (Wigan).