Shannon McDonnell said he doesn’t feel the weight of a nation – or a region – on his shoulders.
The former Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights player will line up for Ireland in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup (due to begin this Friday night).
McDonnell – who played for the Camden Rams this year – will be the only Group 6 Country Rugby League player at this year’s tournament.
Injury ruined his previous two World Cup campaigns with the Ireland side, but he’s ready and raring to go this time.
“I’m really looking forward to it after missing the last two World Cups,” the Elderslie resident said.
“I’m stoked to be able to play.”
The Irish will kick off their campaign on Sunday against Italy in Cairns.
While the Azurri may not be recognised as a global rugby league force, the quality of players in the squad has McDonnell under no illusions about how tough the match will be.
Some of the most recognisable Italian names include St George-Illawarra prop Paul Vaughan, former Canberra Raider Terry Campese and former Wests Tigers and Menangle product, James Tedesco.
“Italy have a really good side – there’s a lot of NRL experience there,” he said.
The tournament doesn’t get any easier after the Italy game, with Ireland also to face Papua New Guinea and Wales in the group stage.
The Papua New Guinea game will also be held at a field on the small island nation.
“I’m looking forward to that one,” the former Mount Carmel Catholic College student said.
“They nearly get a packed house there every time they play (in the Queensland Rugby League Intrust Super Cup).
“They’re footy fanatics.”
The 30-year-old qualified to play for Ireland due to his mother’s heritage.
He said he was looking forward to representing the nation and his mother.
“It means the world to me to be able to represent Ireland,” he said.
But the most important question is: does he know the Ireland National Anthem?
“It’s mandatory,” he said.