Brad Austin is set to become the first New Zealand-based heritage player to play for Canada Wolverines, in the forthcoming 2018 Americas Championship, which will also act as a qualifier for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England. The University of North Florida, Jacksonville, will host two double-header rounds on 13th and 17th November 2018, and in the opening fixtures Canada take on Jamaica, the winners facing either USA or Chile for the right to qualify automatically.
Austin’s selection comes about thanks to a conversation with his grandmother about her father, who died during the Second World War whilst on duty for the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.
“To be given the opportunity to represent Canada in the World Cup qualifiers is an absolute privilege,” said Austin. “My nana, who was born in Winnipeg, was excited to hear the news of my selection, as were family members I still have living over there,and in Vancouver.
His great granfather, Alfred John Vinie and his wife Daisy, were from Winnipeg, Manitoba and Brad’s nana was born there in 1939. Alfred joined famed the infantry regiment and was killed in action during the Dieppe raid in 1942. He is buried in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery.
Daisy moved to New Zealand at the end of hostilities, setting sail for Auck;and on the Priam when his nana was aged six, and they eventually moved to Christchurch. “It was awesome to go through all the old photos with Nana and discuss our heritage,” said Austin, who initially played for Halswell Hornets, South island Scorpions, Canterbury Bulls and the Canterbury Maori team, before moving to Australia and joining Wests Devils and winning a championship with them in the Illawara league.
“I believe we have a great chance to make history by qualifying for the Rugby League World Cup, and I will do everything possible to help achieve this goal for my team mates, my family and for Canada!”
Playing alongside him will be Wes Black, who made the Rugby (Union) Canada, U17 national team. Black moved to Kelowna BC, four years ago where Wolverine Rick Schouten suggested he try rugby league. As a result, Black joined the Kelowna Roosters, with the team going undefeated and winning the BC Rugby League Championship, Minor Premiership in 2017. “Now that I have played and represented my country in both codes,” commented Black, I know that Rugby League is where I belong. “Wearing that crest on my chest makes me want to play my heart out for my country. Nothing beats it.”
At the other end of the experience scale, Jordan Drew made his debut for Brisbane Broncos aged 18 and played for three years in their U20s side, and for the Junior Kangaroos in 2015. “Representing Canada will be another huge milestone for me and my family, and I can’t wait to run out with the boys who I know will feel the same privilege,” Drew claimed. “I’ll do everything I can to help Canada get a World Cup spot in 2021.”