FORMER Sydney Roosters hooker Simon Bonetti has announced he is coming out of retirement to play with the Italian national side as they take on a Bunderberg Cup representative team in Griffith next Saturday.
Bonetti walked away from the NRL after helping the tri-colours to the premiership against the New Zealand Warriors in 2002, and has since had little to do with the game.
However, the coup of Bonetti’s return for the clash comes on top of a host of current NRL stars with Italian heritages have also been announced to support the game, with James Tedesco, Anthony Minichiello, Vic Mauro, Aiden Guerra, Tom Humble and Ben Musolino supporting the visit.
The three-day camp will look to solidify the relationship the city has with Italian rugby league, which stretches back to 1999 and a trial game which featured Minichiello.
While the current crop of stars will not pull on the boots next weekend, their presence is set to act as a valuable marketing tool according to Sam Panarello.
The long-time Yenda Blueheelers’ official said the trip had been a year in the making, and hoped the city would embrace the side when they visit.
“One of the wineries sponsored the team for their World Cup qualifier last year, so when a few of the team came down here to thank them we got together and suggested they play a trial down here,” Panarello said.
“Our ultimate aim really is to have Griffith behind the team, because next November the (Italian) team are playing before Australia and England, so they’re the curtain raiser when they play Wales.
“So by then we’d like to have Griffith on the front (of their jerseys), whether we can pull it off, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Excitingly, local league players of Italian background will also be invited to train with the side when they visit in the hope of getting their foot in the door with the national program.
The Italian squad to play next Saturday is expected to be announced in the coming days.