Is Carter Gordon really an NRL prospect… and which Australian rugby legends could have made the switch too?


Wallabies fly-half Carter Gordon is reportedly flirting over the fence with two NRL clubs – the Gold Coast Titans and Melbourne Storm.

The 23-year-old is off contract with Rugby Australia at season’s end, and is testing the waters elsewhere to best gauge his value.

Gordon, who was handed the weight of the Wallabies’ disastrous 2024 World Cup campaign as a recent debutant, has been in strong form this season despite crumbling under the pressure in Paris. 

It is understood Gordon’s management met with Gold Coast earlier this week, pushing the envelope at $700,000 per year, which raised a few eyebrows. 

Notably, he is a newbie to rugby league. While not short on intercept tries and speed, it doesn’t take an analyst to know many features of Gordon’s game will be conceded once entering the NRL gauntlet.

Based on his strong right boot and playmaking abilities, it would be reasonable to suggest if Gordon was to make the switch, the No.7 jersey is his best fit.  

Take out the kick-returns, clearances and last-ditch cross-kicks from a scrappy advantage; the Rebel would have to prioritise forced dropouts and a pristine short game, elements lower on the pecking order in rugby. 

While accustomed to the bomb, Gordon’s main issue will likely come in defence. Unlike a league to union conversion, this is where I believe rugby players gain the upper hand. 

As a rugby no.10, Gordon is faced with tackling head-on the loose forwards and rapid centres of our game. Space in a rugby backline is far greater than in league, specifically off set-play scrums and lineouts, meaning Gordon is no stranger to communication in defence and having to muscle up. 

As the fair-haired playmaker weighs up a return to the Sunshine Coast, who are the Wallabies before him who could have set the switch alight? Fly-halves gifted with deft touch, decisiveness, and creativity in bounds.

Carter Gordon tries to burst through the All Blacks line during the 2023 Rugby Championship. (Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

Stephen Larkham 

The 102-Test legend is arguably the best fly-half Australia has produced. The black headgear bandit had a stature similar to Gordon’s: he was a wiry playmaker with a rounded skillset. 

Larkham was best at spotting space and charging into gaps from the set-piece. The loyal Brumby also possessed a dangerous torpedo kick, along with accurate crosskicking and in-play nudges. 

‘Bernie’ was one of the Wallabies’ most clutch performers and would be the man set behind the ruck come NRL golden point. At the 1999 Rugby World Cup, Larkham famously dropped jaws after slotting a 48-metre drop goal on the run against the Springboks to gift the Wallabies a final berth. 

Larkham’s versatility also points towards success in the NRL space. He began his career as a fullback and would pose a threat in the 13-man game at No.6, 7 or 1. 

Mark Ella 

The Randwick great put an end to his career at 25, but it only took as many Tests to highlight his rare talent. The 1980s fly-half is remembered for his 1984 Grand Slam tour drubbing, where he scored a try in games against England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Ella would have run riot anywhere he went; in rugby league, at No.6, think Cameron Munster on steroids. 

Quade Cooper

Cooper’s 2011 Super Rugby season with the Reds had the rugby world marvelling, with an insane step, a Benji Marshall-like flick pass and freakish post try celebration.

Whilst snubbed for the Wallabies’ recent World Cup campaign, Cooper in his prime would have excelled as an NRL No.6. 

Yet as a five-eighth on the front line, his defence would be his major query. Imagine the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Tony ‘T-Rex’ Williams barging into the at times turnstile Cooper. 

His creativity on fourth and fifth tackle plays would post the greatest threat. Cooper at his best had the ability to draw in two to three defenders, holding the pill with both hands, only to put through a last-second grubber or a behind the back pass. 

Bernard Foley

A controversial call, but arguably, Foley could have cracked it at NRL level. Small in stature but big on heart, the iceman and his line-running grit had shades of Luke Keary at his best.

Foley was a goalkicking staple for the Wallabies and held his own defensively. The 2014 Super Rugby champion performed in big moments and would provide a wise head on either the left or right side in the NRL. 

Whilst on occasions he got smacked in contact, Foley’s courage never faded in taking on a tight line and blowing past the big man. 

Admittedly not always an X-factor No.10, Foley will be remembered for his consistency, something NRL coaches yearn for in a halfback and halves pairing. 

Kurtley Beale

Versatile and deadly. Beale as a youngster would have given tiring middles windburn. Imagine him at No.6, fullback or as a utility with the 14 jersey, dancing around the ruck off a quick play the ball. 

Beale could turn off a ten-cent piece and accelerate from a snail’s pace. His offload game and short-kicking ability may have run rampant in the NRL if a switch ever transpired.

Kurtley Beale scores a last minute try to win the match against Wales during an International at Millennium Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

He was the full package: a goalkicker, playmaker and the injection of speed that spelled danger for any opposition 22 in open space. 

While making a comeback in the west, his wise head and craftiness could still provide interest in the 13-man game. 

Notable mentions go to Michael Lynagh, Elton Flatley, Matt Giteau and the baby-faced Berrick Barnes, who all had the support play and minds to make hopeful halfbacks. 

NRL fans may doubt the skillset and success of a Carter Gordon NRL conversion. History doesn’t show any real precedence for a rugby fly-half staking his claim in the league ranks. 

Sports opinion delivered daily 


If he does choose to switch codes and subsequently succeeds, could he blaze the trail for a wave of rugby to league transitions?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.