He is the talk of the European Super League’s opening round after scoring a blockbusting try – and now the Warriors are set to lay out the red carpet for Warrington Wolves powerhouse Ben Murdoch-Masila’s NRL return in 2021, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The 28-year-old Tongan forward steamrolled former Souths star George Burgess and dragged three more Wigan defenders over the line for the first try of the 2020 Super League competition on Thursday. The Wolves went on to lose 16-10 after having captain Chris Hill sent off midway through the first half, but Murdoch-Masila nevertheless added to his cult hero reputation at ‘The Wire’.
George Burgess' Super League career didn't get off to the best of starts
— FOX LEAGUE (@FOXNRL) January 30, 2020
Whispers the Auckland-born wrecking ball could be returning home as early as this season failed to materialise for Warriors fans desperate for a high-profile recruit.
But the Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis has reported the Warriors are on course to lure Murdoch-Masila on a two-season deal starting next year.
First he steamrolled George Burgess. Now Ben Murdoch-Masila is set to take on the NRL with the Tongan bulldozer expected to ink a two year deal with an NRL club.
— Michael Carayannis (@MCarayannis) February 1, 2020
The Otahuhu junior treaded a well-worn path to Wests Tigers via Gold Coast rugby league nursery Keebra Park High. Only 19, he debuted for the Tigers in their unforgettable golden point finals loss to Sydney Roosters in 2010 and represented Tonga at the 2013 World Cup after forging a permanent spot on the Tigers’ bench over the previous two NRL campaigns.
But a fruitless move to Penrith midway through 2014 – playing just six first-grade games in 18 months with the Panthers – saw Murdoch-Masila join English outfit Salford.
The 120kg back-rower helped the Red Devils to a top-four finish in the 2017 Super League regular season with 13 tries in 18 games, attracting the attention of heavyweights Warrington. Murdoch-Masila has become a key member of the Wolves’ line-up over the past two seasons, crossing for a try in their 2019 Challenge Cup final triumph over St Helens.
Meanwhile, Murdoch-Masila has been at the forefront of Tonga’s international rugby league revolution in recent years. He played all five matches of Mate Ma’a Tonga’s watershed 2017 RLWC campaign and starred in Tonga Invitational’s ground-breaking victories over Great Britain and Australia in late-2019.
Murdoch-Masila’s imposing frame, game-breaking ability, and remarkable speed and footwork would be a welcome addition to a Warriors engine-room contingent stacked with toilers but sorely lacking size, mobility and variety. The club’s reported approaches to the likes of Matt Lodge, David Fifita, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Sitili Tupouniua, Kurt Capewell, Zane Tetavano and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui were rebuffed as the pressure mounts on celebrated recruitment guru Peter O’Sullivan.
While taking up a Super League contract has traditionally been viewed as the end of the NRL road, several players have enjoyed career renaissances after stints in England. New Zealand-raised forwards Sam Moa and Iosia Soliola have returned from Super League to feature in NRL grand finals in recent years – a course Murdoch-Masila may look to follow with the Warriors.