RUGBY LEAGUE has its fair share of internationals from Samoans, Tongans, Fijians, Australians, New Zealanders, British and French to name but a few.
A number of players in both hemispheres also have heritage links to the likes of Greece, Lebanon and Malta, but very few players can associate themselves with the Netherlands.
Born in the capital city of Amsterdam, former St Helens and Salford star Tim Jonkers was the first ever professional rugby league player from the European nation, but now there is a second on the horizon.
Joran Schoenmaker is just 23 years of age, but the Dutch international has been taking rugby league by storm in his native Netherlands.
Nominated for the Golden Boot in 2022, Schoenmaker won the 2018 NRLB with Amsterdam Cobras before returning to his hometown club Zwolle Wolves.
Now he will play in League One for the North Wales Crusaders with the 23-year-old charting his rise to the UK.
“I started playing rugby union at first, but the season wasn’t long enough for me even though it’s around roughly 9 months – I wanted to play rugby all year round,” Schoenmaker told League Express.
“So I did some searching and found out that the Netherlands has rugby league as well. It wasn’t 15v15 but 13v13 where you basically run it straight. I loved that part, there was more physical contact and the ball was in play longer.
“That’s where I found out that I loved this version of the game. It was hard and fast, and then I eventually began playing international games which made me love it even more.”
Schoenmaker has the aim of eventually playing Super League, but his first aim is to earn promotion with the Crusaders.
“I’ve always wanted to play professional rugby since I started and rugby league gave me the perfect platform for it, that’s why I choose to sign for the Crusaders,” Schoenmaker continued.
“They are aiming for promotion, so that will help my development. Of course, it would be great if I could ever make it to Super League.
“That’s where I have set my goals, if I am able to reach it, who knows? I’ll try my best that’s for certain.”
In terms of rugby league growing in Europe, Schoenmaker has identified that the sport is becoming increasingly popular in his native Netherlands.
“In the Netherlands, the sport is growing and it’s receiving more and more attention, plus the governing body is trying hard as well, especially to improve the international level and get the youth involved.
“In the regular competition everyone knows each other which makes it lots of fun as well.
“I’ve moved over to the UK recently and started training with the Crusaders, it’s been a hectic few days but also good fun.”