Braveheart Luke coming to Ballina
WHEN Yamba-born Luke Douglas pulls on the jumper of the Scottish national rugby league team in Ballina on Friday night, it's all about helping promote the game around the world.
Douglas has been named in the Scottish Rugby League World Cup squad to take on the New South Wales Country Under-23s team at Kingsford Smith Park in a warm-up game for the world cup.
The 31-year-old prop grew up in Yamba and played juniors and a few senior games for Lower Clarence before heading to Sydney to play NRL with the Sharks and later the Titans.
Now, he pulls on the boots for St Helens in the English Super League.
He has worn the blue-and-white of Scotland seven times.
He qualifies because his grandfather is a Scot.
There has been some debate about players like Andrew Fifita, who has represented NSW and Australia, now wanting to represent another country.
While Douglas didn't get selected for national or state representative duties in Australia, he did admit he was "hesitant” about playing for Scotland when he was first approached.
However, he said he was swayed by the idea his involvement with the Scots was a way of promoting the game throughout the world.
"And I'm proud of my heritage,” he said.
Douglas lives most of the year in the UK.
He said rugby league is played as a summer sport in Scotland.
That's a strategy which aims to attract players from the more popular rugby union played in the winter.
But he said having the experienced NRL players competing with the national Scottish team has lifted the Bravehearts to one of the highest-ranked Scottish national teams, behind soccer and union.
That, he said, could only be a good thing for rugby league.
In adding to his cultural heritage, he chips in by saying Maclean, promoted as the "Scottish town in Australia”, where a Highland Games is held every Easter, was not far from where he grew up, though he has never been to the games.
And he has taken to wearing a kilt, as that is the formal uniform for the Scottish squad.
He did have a head-start in learning the Scottish national anthem, Flower of Scotland, as his grandfather had taught him some of the words before he belted out the anthem with his team-mates.
Scotland will take on the NSW Country Under-23s team in Ballina on October 20.
Gates open at 4.30pm, when Coffs Harbour takes on Byron Bay in a Ladies League Tag game, followed by an under-16s clash where a Group 1 team will play a Group 18 team.
The main game featuring the Bravehearts will kick off at 7pm.
Entry costs $10 for adults, $5 concession and children aged under 15 can go to the game for free.