The Japan international developing his talent in the BRL
LEAGUE: Maryborough's Eskdale Park is not the first place you would expect to find a footballer with two international caps to his name.
Kenshin Tsutsui, an Auckland-born pivot who played his junior footy for Ellerslie Eagles, has played eight games for Maryborough Brothers since he joined the Bundaberg Rugby League club at the start of the year.
A late call-up to the BRL's representative under-20s team, Tsutsui has shifted from his home at hooker to partner Dalton Harry in the halves at his club.
While he is looking forward to the chance to represent Bundaberg, the 18-year-old has just returned from arguably a bigger stage: his second international game.
He played for Japan Samurais in their East Asian Nations Cup game against Hong Kong at the Sogo Ground of Inagi Chuo Park in Inagi City, about 30km west of Tokyo.
He played his first game - and scored his first international try, reported as a brilliant individual try in which he regathered a kick - for Japan in November's 22-20 win against Hong Kong.
"The coach, somehow he watched one of my videos, but he emailed my mum,” Tsutsui said. "My dad asked me one day if I wanted to play for Japan and I thought it was a goal, not about playing straight away.
"They were all relatively new to the game but now Hong Kong and Japan have their own competitions. It was probably the standard of club footy but the vibe was different.
"It's pretty awesome.”
His second international appearance, Tsutsui, who qualifies for the Samurais through his Japanese mother, was one of three Australian-based players named in the squad.
Hong Kong ultimately won 32-20, though the experience is one Tsutsui will strive to repeat later this year when Japan, ranked 41 by the Rugby League International Federation, will be one of 14 teams to compete at the Emerging Nations World Championship.
The two-week tournament will be played in western Sydney, at grounds in Cabramatta, St Mary's and Windsor.
There, Japan could face teams like Canada, Greece, Malta and Philippines.
Tsutsui is not guaranteed to feature at the competition, which is restricted to tier two and tier three nations, but the Samurais representative said that goal was in his sights.
"I've got to keep working but I should hopefully be there,” Tsutsui said.
Before that, Tsutsui wants to experience a few more victories with his club team.
A move to the halves has made the season a touch more challenging for the former hooker, but it is one he has taken in his stride.
"I want to progress as a player,” Tsutsui said of his goal.
"I wasn't in the initial squad. Alex (Dreger, Maryborough Brothers coach) called me when I was on my way to Brisbane (to fly to Japan). I've played some rep footy at home in Auckland so I expect it to be a tough weekend of back-to-back games.”
Dreger said Tsutsui's commitment and application made him an invaluable member of the Maryborough club.
"Everything he does he does with 110 per cent,” Dreger said.
"He fit in really well, especially in the halves. It's a position we've lacked in the last couple of years and he has done the job really well.”
Maryborough Brothers host Easts Magpies at Eskdale Park on Saturday night.
Kick-off is at 6.30pm.