THE ITALIAN JOB: Ghost gears up to lead country in big test
RUGBY LEAGUE: It's not often that one gets to pull on a jersey to represent a country in their chosen sport but this will be Grafton Ghosts half-back Brad Billsborough's fifth time doing just that.
English import Billsborough made the switch to bush footy earlier this year after joining from championship side Swinton Lions but that hasn't stopped him from representing Germany in a number of test matches.
Now preparing for one of his biggest international games yet, the play maker has lined up against sides like Wales Dragonheart, Norway, Czech Republic and the Netherlands but Italy is a different beast.
Littered with NRL players along with former NRL and current Super League star Mark Minichiello, Italy boasts some real fire-power and the Germans will be in for a challenge in Venice.
Billsborough finds it hard to have ever imagined the journey he has been on in rugby league but he is relishing his role in the development of the sport in Germany.
"It's not somewhere I expected to go with the sport,” he said.
"Playing for them you get to visit a lot of different places not many people get to go to.
"Getting together with the team is something I enjoy doing. I love helping them out in their development. There are a lot of guys who predominantly played rugby union but it's great working with them.
"Playing with other professionals is always a bonus, Super League star Jimmy Keinhorst has also been a big influence.”
Not only does Billsborough play for the German side, he also leads them at just 22 years of age.
"It's good to represent a national side but it's even better to be the youngest to ever captain an international side,” he said.
"It was an amazing feeling and it happened after just two games in the World Cup qualifiers.”
It hasn't all been easy for Billsborough though, with the English-born athlete having to adapt quickly alongside his new teammates.
"It's been quite challenging at times, not everyone speaks English so I obviously had to learn German, which was difficult,” he said.
"It's all very new to them, the long-term goal is to reach the World Cup but at the minute we're focusing on these games which we have to win. The more games we win, the more people will learn about a national side in Germany.
"We get quite a good crowd because there aren't many league teams around so it's quite a novelty. I'm really looking forward to it.”
The half-back has stuck to his training in the off-season but will be missing former coach Simon Cooper, who has stood down in poor health.
"I've kept my training up and kept myself fit, I've done everything I can to stay on top of it,” he said.
"The biggest thing is going home earlier to acclimatise and avoid any jet lag.
"The coach, Simon, is very unwell but I wanted to say a big thanks to him for everything he has done for me.”
Following on from the game against Italy on November 2, Germany will face the Great Britain under-23 side before taking on Spain and Greece.