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Rugby League World Cup: Herbie Farnworth dreams of glory with England

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Herbie Farnworth played football for Man United and Man City as a child but now dreams of World Cup glory with England in rugby league after a remarkable journey to stardom with Brisbane Broncos in the NRL

  • Farnworth, 22, grew up in Burnley and played for both clubs in Manchester
  • But with the help of his uncle Brian Foley, he converted to rugby league as a child
  • After they turned 17, they moved to Australia to try to get into the game there
  • The 6ft 2in center was talent spotted by NRL team Brisbane Broncos
  • Looks like he will receive his first England cap in the World Cup warm-up with Fiji
  • Farnworth has a chance to secure a spot for the upcoming World Cup

From the playing fields of the deepest, darkest Lancashire to the bright lights of NRL giants Brisbane Broncos, it’s been quite a journey for Herbie Farnworth.

As the English Rugby League World Cup campaign comes into play, the unlimited 22-year-old is poised to write a new chapter in his remarkable story.

Farnworth, a gifted sportsman who grew up near Burnley, spent time as a child in the youth ranks at Turf Moor, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Herbie Farnworth, pictured after a game in Brisbane Broncos, hopes to secure a place in the England squad for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup

His uncle, Brian Foley, a legendary talent spotter at Wigan Warriors for many years, then persuaded Farnworth to try rugby league.

The 6ft 2in center recalled: ‘I was just a little kid when I worked at United.

“I went to camp with City and they gave me a nice pair of Nike shoes, but I was mainly at Burnley.

The 22-year-old center addressed the media at the announcement of the England squad

The 22-year-old center addressed the media at the announcement of the England squad

“It’s been so long, though, and I’ve never really taken football seriously if I’m honest.

‘I started playing tag rugby at Blacko Primary School, won the Lancashire Cup and then a year at Wharfedale RU before my uncle Brian took me to Wigan St Patrick’s to play competition.

“He has coached me since I was eight years old, with skills and fitness sessions.

“He wouldn’t let me sign with any Super League club because the idea was always to go to Australia and play there.

“I played for Burleigh Bears on the Gold Coast and was picked up by Brisbane in their under-20s programme. I slowly worked my way up to the first team.’

Going down was a leap of faith, however, as Farnworth explained: “Brian came for three years and we stayed in a shoebox.

“On my last day here in England I sat at the local bus stop and cried my eyes out.

“I had just turned 17 and it was a very strange feeling.

“It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve done and the first six months there was a killer. However, I couldn’t have lived with myself if I had stopped.’

Farnworth makes an effort for the Broncos in their NRL game against Newcastle in May

Farnworth makes an effort for the Broncos in their NRL game against Newcastle in May

Farnworth made his NRL debut in July 2019 and was in sparkling form, scoring 10 tries in 12 games, when he was stricken with a biceps injury in June.

Now fit again, he looks set to make his England debut in Friday’s warm-up match against Fiji for the World Cup opener against Samoa on October 15.

Farnworth’s parents and brothers live near Blacko, a small village of less than 1,000 inhabitants, far from the big city of Brisbane.

He added: ‘Blacko is a small, quiet village where everyone knows everyone and the average age is about 60!

Injury affected Farnworth's season in the NRL, but he hopes to make an impact at the World Cup

Injury affected Farnworth’s season in the NRL, but he hopes to make an impact at the World Cup

‘Brisbane is probably the opposite and nobody knows anyone because there are thousands of people.

“But it’s cool to be back in England and see family for the first time in two years.

“I get goosebumps when I think of that first World Cup match against Samoa.

“I’m going to train super hard and hopefully I’ll get my place in the team. For all my family and friends to be there, it will be incredible. I’m already being pestered for tickets.’

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