Former Pioneer on German frontline
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org
"I'M HERE in Heidelberg. I'm in the side." It was the phone call from Europe Steve Williams senior never expected.
His son, Steve junior, a former Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneer player, rang at 3am on Friday with the news he had won selection in the German national rugby union team at tight-head prop.
"It was just so out of the blue," Williams snr said. "I thought 'Okay, he's on holidays doing a tour and he's on his way down for the coach to have a look at him.
"My wife and I are rapt. "The last thing we thought would happen is he'd end up playing for Germany."
But play he did. Steve went from backpacker to internationally capped rugby player in four days.
Last Thursday, Steve boarded a train out of K?ln, heading for a training run under the eye of Germany's director of rugby Peter Ianusevici.
In freezing conditions, he had two hours to get from the train station to the paddock.
"As far as he was concerned, he was going for a training run and would watch them play on Sunday," Williams snr said.
But Ianusevici was so impressed with Steve's mobility and scrummaging skills that he named him in the starting line-up that defeated Moldova 34-5 in a European Nations division two match early yesterday morning (Australian time).
"He was over the moon," Williams said. "Apparently he had a really good game. He never elaborates on his own efforts but the coach was very impressed.
"They've asked him to go back to play with the national side for the whole season from April.
"They're going to fly him back, according to his latest text message."
Steve, who started playing as a 15-year-old with the Pioneers, was eligible for the team through his mother's German heritage.
Under International Rugby Board regulations, the German cap now makes him ineligible to play for Australia. But Steve told a Berlin reporter he had no regrets about abolishing hope of playing for the Wallabies.
"To get an international cap is a pretty big thing and it's a massive honour to be selected," he said. "I have to be realistic about my chances of playing for Australia.
"The highest standard I could hope to play back home would be Australian Rugby Championship level, which is one (step) down from the Super 14.
"I am a bit stunned to be honest. "I turned up just expecting a trail and a bit of a look around and the next thing I knew, I was in the team."
The trip was to be one last adventure before knuckling down and starting a university degree at Macquarie University in Sydney, but now Steve has to see if he can juggle full-time study with international playing commitments.
"It was a great experience, there was quite a big crowd and they really got behind us, it was great to get a big win," he told the reporter.
"They had more people watching than I have seen for first-grade games back home.
"All of the players are amateurs and gave up their time to play for their country. The whole thing had a lot of old-school charm, which we just don't get in professional rugby now.
"I didn't attempt to sing the national anthem. I have heard it while watching the Olympics on the television, but I have until the spring to learn it now."