AFTER eight years out of the game, you could forgive Simon Bonetti for being a bit rusty.
But therein lies the challenge for the former Sydney Rooster as he lines up for Italy tomorrow in their World Cup trial match against a Bundaberg Cup representative team at EW Moore Oval.
While he might be 35 years old, Bonetti said the chance to play the game in which he made his name is giving him reason to be excited about pulling on the blue jersey of the Azzurri.
“I don’t know whether I’m excited or apprehensive, because I do keep myself reasonably fit,” he said.
“So it’s going to be a good challenge to see if I can get straight back in there and make a bit of a difference to the game again, I certainly don’t think it’s going to be that easy.
“I don’t know what sort of minutes I will get, I don’t think it’ll be about pulling the boots back on again and seeing how I go.
“It’s just a trial game so I’m not going to go around saying I represented Italy, but my parents have both got a strong Italian heritage, so it’ll be nice to say that I have worn the jumper, all be it in a trial.”
Asked if he believes tomorrow’s game might be the start of a full-time comeback, Bonetti denied he had visions of himself playing in Group 20 in 2013.
“Lifestyle and work doesn’t allow me to play a full year, but the lure of a one-off game and the challenge of playing after eight years, all pushed me towards saying yes,” he said.
The clash is not just an important stepping stone for deciding a final Italian squad for next year’s World Cup, but it is also a chance for Griffith to sell itself on the world sporting stage.
Local rugby league officials are hoping local business and figureheads will adopt the team, with the hope of a sponsorship deal bring struck up within the next year.
However, for Bonetti, the chance to mentor the many young players picked in the 32-man squad, if only for a short time, is a chance he could not pass up.
“I know the coach (Carlo Napolitano) who was good mates with Adrian Morley when he was with me at the Roosters,” he said.
“So Carlo rang me to see if I was interested because they have a lot of young fellas in the side they’re bringing down.
“But on top of that to promote Griffith and promote the game, and being out of the game for so long, I thought it was a great opportunity.
“Because Griffith’s a great town and any way I could help to promote it and the game, that was the main reason.”
Who: Italy v Bundaberg Cup
When: Saturday, October 6
Where: EW Moore Oval