Over the next few weeks, you’re going to be reading and hearing a lot of crazy stuff about Scotland taking part in an international rugby league tournament – and it’s all true.
Yep, the nation that introduced comedian Billy Connolly, actor Sean Connery and singer Susan Boyle to the world will be lining up against the three superpowers of the 13-man game – Australia, New Zealand and England - in the 2016 Rugby League Four Nations tournament, which kicks off Saturday morning, October 29 Aussie time and concludes with a final on November 20.
If you’re not too familiar with Scotland’s place in the rugby league world, sit back and be mesmerised by these ten informative factoids about the proud nation’s contribution to the Greatest Game of All.
FACT ONE: Label Scotland newcomers to rugby league at your peril … The game there actually dates all the way back to 1909 when a squad of touring Aussies played against a Northern Rugby Football Union rep team at Glasgow’s Celtic Park. The score: 17-17.
FACT TWO: To qualify for the 2016 Four Nations, Scotland defeated inaugural 2009 tournament invitee France in the final of the Rugby League European Nations Cup. (It was Europe’s turn to field the fourth country this year; they swap with the Pacific region for spots in the tournament’s final four).
FACT THREE: Scotland’s squad of 24 players for the 2016 Four Nations contains, among others, Euan Aitkin (St George-Illawarra Dragons), North Queensland Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote, St Helens-bound Gold Coast Titan Luke Douglas and another Cowboy, Kane Linnett.
FACT FOUR: Scotland’s national rugby league team is nicknamed the “Bravehearts” – not after the actor Mel Gibson, but a key figure in the wars of Scottish Independence, William Wallace.
FACT FIVE: As of June this year, Scotland was ranked ninth in the rugby league world behind the big three, then Samoa, France, Ireland, Fiji and Wales. Scotland sits just above the United States and Papua New Guinea. Randomly, Denmark is ranked 25th and Morocco is ranked 36th.
FACT SIX: Scotland rugby league’s modern-day William Wallace, if you like, is half Danny Brough (pictured at top). The Dewsbury-born veteran switched allegiances from England to Scotland in 2013. The 33-year-old has played more than 360 games for clubs including Hull FC, Castleford, Wakefield and his current employers in the Super League, Huddersfield, where he’s been based since 2010.
FACT SEVEN: Scotland’s largest stadium, Murrayfield, in Edinburgh, has hosted two relatively recent Challenge Cup finals. In 2000 Bradford beat Leeds 24-18 in front of more than 67,000 fans, while in 2002 Wigan beat St Helens 21-12 before a crowd of 62,140.
FACT EIGHT: Not a single player selected to represent Scotland at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup was actually born in Scotland …
FACT NINE: Former South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Shaun McRae was in charge of the Scottish national team for five games between October 1999, and the Rugby League World Cup played in November 2000. The Scots won one game on Bomber's watch.
AND FINALLY ... Billy Connolly, Sean Connery and Susan Boyle are all yet to make their international rugby league debuts for Scotland …