From Broken Hill to the world
Friday, 16th September, 2011
By John Casey
Broken Hill’s rich sporting history which includes Melbourne Cup and Stawell Gift winners as well as AFL premiership success has added another intriguing layer at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
For the first time a Broken Hill-born player is taking part in the world’s third big sporting event with Ryan Nicholas representing Japan.
Nicholas, who gained citizenship of Japan in July, was born in BH on May 23, 1979 and said from New Zealand he hopes that might sway some rugby fans from his home town to support Japan rather than the Wallabies.
“We are one of the minnows in this competition so any support we can get from anywhere is always welcome,” Nicholas said with a laugh from Auckland.
“I don’t really recall much of my time in Broken Hill, but that shouldn’t stop the local fans from at least making Japan their second team behind Australia.”
Nicholas explained that he was born in BH after his father (Philip) came to the city to work as a dentist in the late 1970s.
“My Dad’s sister (Frances Nicholas) had a dental surgery in Broken Hill and invited Dad to be a part of that,” Nicholas said.
“I don’t even recall where the dental practice was in Broken Hill and I think I was only there for about three years, so my memories of my birthplace are fairly limited.
“Maybe one day down the track I will get a chance to return to Broken Hill to find out a little more about the place,” he added.
After being born in BH, Nicholas moved to Sydney, then on to the Cook Islands before shifting to New Zealand where he spent much of his early life.
“I have a lot of my family here so to be playing in a World Cup in front of them is a huge thrill,” Nicholas said.
“The All Blacks (NZ) are in our pool, so when we get to play them (tonight) it will be a massive moment in my career.”
Nicholas moved to Japan seven years ago to further his rugby career and plays in the centres wearing number 12 for his adopted country.
In their opening match Japan lost 21-47 to France and while they aren’t expected to trouble either New Zealand or Tonga, Nicholas is hoping for a victory against Canada.
“Rugby is obviously still very much a growing sport in Japan and pre-tournament we set ourselves a goal of defeating Canada and going home with at least one win,” Nicholas said.
Japan has been criticised for having 10 of its 30-man squad recruited from outside the country, but of the 20 teams at the 2011 Rugby World Cup only three are completely home grown.
Australia has included seven foreign-born players in its squad.
The RWC is the third biggest sporting event on the planet behind the Olympic Games and soccer’s World Cup and will be watched by more than four billion people from over 200 countries.
“And little old Broken Hill can claim to be a part of it,” Nicholas said.