FOUR years ago Luke Bain was one of the brightest prospects in Western Rugby League, but back then he never would have predicted he'd be selected to represent Scotland.
The talented lock was last week named in Scotland's squad for the Rugby League World Cup.
It was a selection that came after several years of talks between Bain and Scottish officials, but to see his name on the official player list was still a moment that made him immensely proud.
"I've pretty much been in talks with the chairman of Scotland Rugby League since I moved down to Sydney to play for Souths when I was 19," Bain revealed.
"The World Cup was meant to be last year and they were going to get me over, because of COVID it got postponed to this year.
"It hasn't fully sunk in, just the magnitude of how big an event it is, so I feel really grateful I get the chance to go over and play."
While Bain, who turns 22 on Tuesday when he flies out to join his team-mates, is proud of the fact he grew up in Bathurst, he has a strong link to Scotland.
"So my Dad was born in Scotland and so were both my Grandparents. I actually don't have any Australian heritage, I'm a citizen because I've been here so long, but I was born in the US and my Mum was born in the US," he said.
"But I've been in Australia since I was three or four, so I'm pretty much a country boy."
Bain rose through the junior ranks with St Pat's, forming part of the 2016 Western Rams side that made it to the Country Championships final.
He then switched to Bathurst Panthers and his success continued. In 2018 Bain skippered the Western Rams under 18s side, earned New South Wales Country selection and not only played in Bathurst Panthers' Group 10 title winning first grade outfit, but snagged the players' player for that team too.
After that Bain headed to Sydney to further his career. In 2019 he won the Jersey Flegg grand final with South Sydney.
An opportunity arose at Penrith the next season, but he didn't see a lot of game time and decided to move to Parramatta.
He's still with the Eels now, having played eight games in the NSW Cup for them this season before a shoulder injury.
READ MORE: From St Pat's to England's world cup squad
Bain impressed in defence with a 96.3 percent tackling efficiency rating, while he also scored a try for the Eels.
"At the start of the year I was playing a little bit at Wenty, which is the grade underneath, then I got the call up and played pretty consistently from there," Bain said.
"Then I got a shoulder injury in my eighth game of [NSW] Cup. As soon as I got injured there was a lot of guys from the top squad in the NRL dropping back.
"But I learned a lot of lessons from it, as soon as you go into that men's landscape of footy it's a different beast. It was good to test myself and see what I could do at that higher level of competition.
"There were a few ups and downs to it just through the way the system works, but I had a really good year, it's a really good group of lads there and I had some really good experiences.
"The way the system works the Cup side would be opposed to NRL at training every single week, so that's been good for my development. Just taking that extra step up that I've never taken before was really good."
Bain will have to take another step up at the Rugby League World Cup with Scotland in the same pool as defending champions Australia, plus Fiji and Italy.
Positionally he's not sure where he will get his chance, but when it comes Bain is keen to take it.
"I'm not too sure exactly where I'll be playing, I reckon anywhere in the forwards, either second row or lock," he said.
"But if the coach tells me to play on the wing I'll play on the wing, I don't really care where I am, I'm just keen to rip in with a Scotland jersey on.
"I'm just keen for a really good experience. We've done a few zoom calls with the boys from Scotland, all the coaching staff and the boys from Scotland seem unreal. No matter how it all goes it will be an experience I reckon I'll probably never forget.
"I'll definitely be pinching myself when we're versing Australia in game two - that sort of moment will be pretty good.
"Our coach was saying we'll definitely be able to give those teams a shake. I think it will be a good game against Fiji and Italy and obviously against Australia we'll rip in and see what we can do."
Scotland is at long odds to make the World Cup final, ranked a 50-1 chance, but Bain feels that no result is a given due to the depth of talent across all squads.
"It's no easy pool for us, but that's the great thinking about international rugby league at the moment, it doesn't matter what pool you're in, there's going to be strong teams in every single pool," he said.
"All these teams are absolutely staked fully of talent, I don't think anyone, no matter what nation they're in, will be sitting there thinking 'Gee we've got a good pool'.
"I personally think it's unreal how all these guys are playing for their heritage because it makes it such a good World Cup.
"I think it will be pretty cool to see a World Cup where you don't really know what's going to happen, like no-one can tell you exactly who's going to win or who's going to win each game. It just makes for a really good tournament."
Bain and his Scotland team-mates open their World Cup campaign against Italy in Newcastle on October 16.
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