Jobs Events Advertise Newsletter

Jai Field hints at NRL return after aiding Indigenous teammate to win over Penrith

Andrew Mathieson -

While Bevan French stole the headlines and was the toast of Wigan after the Gomeroi man led the Super League champions to the World Club Challenge title over the NRL premiers, there was another Aboriginal face hiding in the shadows of the man-of-the-match's brilliance.

Jai Field, who steadfastly stood behind French in the line, was arguably Wigan's next best player in triumphing against Penrith in a 16-10 final win over the Australian system.

For the Warriors, Field's desperation was worth every tightly-gripped tackle. For the Wiradjuri man, it was more of a platform to prove and plea to NRL suitors to bring him back to the country of his ancestors.

The fullback was once cast aside from the NRL following just 17 first grade matches across two clubs.

One of them, much like French, was Parramatta, the territorial archrival of Penrith's.

French departed the Eels at the end of 2018, and Field followed the same path in 2020.

The First Nations men arrived at Wigan in the mild English summers two years apart where they have since thrived, culminating with outstanding performances on the rare world stage against the Panthers.

The heroics came just six weeks after re-signing with the Super League club for up to four more years.

Field is open about harbouring ambitions to play back in Australia after the last two seasons of the new deal has a loophole to tear up the contract should the 26-year-old want to seek a release to an NRL club come 2026.

"I got this year and next year (in the new contract), and then see what happens from there," he told English reporters after the World Club Challenge win.

"I've got a few options here in my favour at Wigan after next year, but everything's always an option.

"That'll be five years (for me at Wigan) by the end of next year – that's a long stint."

Field added that he feels there is unfinished business to prove to NRL supporters that he can add the same defence back home after initially struggling to get a game – just 13 times over three years at St George Illawarra before lasting one year at Parramatta.

"I was at a couple of clubs where you don't really get as many opportunities, or you get blooded as much as what other kids did that were in the same pathway as you," Field said.

"That's why we (Field and French) ended up over here.

"For me, you look at the people I played before me – Blake Green, Jackson Hastings, they've gone over there now and gone well.

"It's definitely still something you want to go and do.

"A lot of people are saying you couldn't, but you still can."

While French popped up everywhere against the world-class Panthers that included a key line break assist and a further try assist from a cut-out pass in addition to running the ball 98 metres, Field's game could be summed up by one matchsaving tackle.

Chasing down a flying Taylan May's charge towards the line was what a rapt Wigan coach Matt Peet said was far from a chance occurrence.

The save caused controversy after the video referee could not find evidence that May got the ball down over the tryline.

"Jai's always been doing that in the Super League," Peet said.

"What our players have done, I think, that's the point I'm making, is be themselves against an outstanding competition.

"Jai's been saving tries for seasons now.

"I can remember a handful of him doing the same thing.

"He's becoming one of those players that when people are against him one-on-one, you'd expect him to make it.

"He works very hard on that."

The deciding play was nearly matched earlier in the second half when Field set up Jake Wardle for the final try of the tight encounter.

   Related   

Schuster officially cut free from Manly
Josh Schuster's time at Manly is officially up, after the second-rower agreed to...
Scott Bailey 24 Apr 2024
Jones escapes hamstring injury, Narkle to miss six-to-eight weeks
Port Adelaide defender Lachie Jones is likely to be available for selection afte...
Jackson Clark 24 Apr 2024
Ugle-Hagan 'unlikely' to face Dogs after personal break, Sanders tussling for opportunity
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is “unlikely” to return from dealing with personal concerns w...
Jarred Cross 24 Apr 2024
Lance Franklin set to make rare appearance at MCG for match-up between two former clubs
Hawthorn will extend their love to one of the club’s and game’s greats when the...
Jarred Cross 24 Apr 2024

   Andrew Mathieson   

Eagles reach out to Walters following fan abuse
West Coast has reached out to Fremantle crosstown rival Michael Walters in an ac...
Andrew Mathieson 24 Apr 2024
How WA's Indigenous legacy in the AFL has continued to diminish in recent years
Revelations that Indigenous footballers from Western Australia – once the histor...
Andrew Mathieson 23 Apr 2024
Beale inspires Force to Super Rugby win
Teammates rave on about Kurtley Beale's Super return to new rugby franchise Wes...
Andrew Mathieson 22 Apr 2024
Character references from Aboriginal Elder, icon play their part in Cameron's tribunal downgrade
A retired former teammate and an Aboriginal Elder played their part in ensuring...
Andrew Mathieson 19 Apr 2024