Scotland will field several locals in the Rugby League Commonwealth Championship on Friday as players from all around the world descend on North Lanarkshire’s Broadwood Stadium. The Young Bravehearts will feature two Easterhouse Panthers in their squad – half-back Kieran Wyber from Moodiesburn, winger Jack Feeney from Bellshill – along with coach Mark Senter, who has been a central figure in the development of rugby league in Scotland and the growth of the Panthers.
Ayrshire Storm have two representatives in winger Connor Turnball from Kilmarnock and forward William Black from Ayr, while two Edinburgh Eagles make the squad in hooker Lewis Clarke from Bonnyrigg and 17-year-old half-back Finn Murphy.
The inaugural Rugby League Commonwealth Championship is part of the Homecoming Scotland festival of events, that will get the Commonwealth summer off to a flying start, with some of the best Under-19 rugby league players on earth coming to at Cumbernauld for the Nines tournament.
The local connections do not stop there: winger Harvey Burnett, who will be making his Scotland debut on Friday when the host nation kick off against Wales, followed by Group A games with Jamaica and favourites Australia, will be supported by his father, a Glasgow-born policeman now residing in Surrey. Burnett junior last week signed a professional contract with Super League side London Broncos and is expected to make his first team debut for them before the season is out.
“Playing for Scotland this week will be a huge privilege,” said Burnett, 18, who went full-time with the Broncos last year having finished his studies at Esher College. “Getting the chance to work with experienced coaches like Steve McCormack and Dave Rotheram will hopefully improve my game further. I’m also looking forward to putting my name into the coaches’ minds for the full squad in the future.”
Burnett started playing league at the age of six at Elmbridge Eagles, where his mum ran the club’s tuck shop. “Mum is a huge influence on my career because she spent countless hours down at side of muddy pitches while I tried to master basic skills and have fun.”
Although the Broncos are bottom of Super League without a win yet this season, Burnett is loving the opportunity to play alongside the likes of England internationals Scott Moore and Matt Cook. “It’s an amazing opportunity to train with the first team,” says Burnett, who studied PE, Biology and Geography last year. “I’ve learned a lot of skills and gained so much confidence. The coaching staff there are very positive and have been a huge help to me and my recent performances.”
See Scotland in action on Friday against Wales, Jamaica and Australia in Group A while England play Canada, Papua New Guinea and South Africa in Group B, all games at Broadwood Stadium, starting from 1pm. Entry on Friday, and at the finals day on Saturday, is FREE.