'Prince of the North' keen to grow at the Ghosts
RUGBY LEAGUE: While most players are still arriving at the ground, or sitting in the stands ahead of another gruelling pre-season session, English recruit Brad Billsborough is on the field running one of his own.
The Grafton Ghosts' latest acquisition, who comes from high pedigree at St Helens, has a penchant for supporting the next generation of talent and he has already put it into work at the club.
After arriving more than 30 minutes early for training, Billsborough spotted two juniors taking turns kicking off the tee.
After watching several missed attempts, the young Englishman took it upon himself to lend a hand. Within five minutes the shots were sailing over the black dot.
That is just the type of player Billsborough wants to be.
While he faces his own battle to earn a starting role in the Ghosts halves this season, he still won't take his focus away from the bigger picture.
"It is something I did for St Helens, for about four years I worked as a development coach going into primary schools to teach skills sessions,” Billsborough said.
"It is something I enjoy doing and I am passionate about. My little brother plays league and I have coached him for a couple of years and that is something I want to do here at the Ghosts.
"To put a smile on the kids' faces, and obviously I have been taught at high levels and it is my duty to pass that knowledge on. I want to try and help them enjoy rugby and keep playing the game.”
Billsborough has been in Australia for less than a fortnight but already there have been a few lessons learnt. Number one, how to stay cool.
"I am just settling in and just about getting used to the weather,” he said. "I built a snowman with my family in Wigan before I flew out, and then I landed in Brisbane to 38 degrees at twilight.”
While the heat may be playing havoc with the 22-year-old import, the decision to move out and play for the Ghosts is one he is proud of.
It has also been a family affair for Billsborough, with long-term girlfriend Laura Bradley also making the move and she will line up for the Ghosts ladies' league tag outfit.
Billsborough starred for the Swinton Lions in UK Championship rugby league last season, and turned down several Super League offers to take up a spot at the Ghosts.
He has also played for emerging rugby league nation Germany, becoming the first British-born captain of the country, and hopes he can bring what he learned from that experience to Group 2 this season.
"I feel like I can give a lot to the Ghosts, I will just give my best each week,” he said. "I am training hard, I am a little bit rusty but hopefully I will kick on now.”
With the return of former NRL five-eighth Clint Greenshields this season, the competition for the remaining halves position appears a three-horse race between Billsborough , incumbent halfback Jake Frame and Blake Winmill.
"I would like to play halfback, that is the position I grew up playing and I am willing to fight for that spot,” Billsborough said.
"Having to fight for the jersey is a lot better than just walking into a role.
"There is always something you can improve on, but you don't know that until you have to fight for it.”
Billsborough will be another in a long line of successful British imports at the Ghosts which also includes Liam Bland and fellow northerner Adam Slater, who has become a key part of the club's forward pack since making the switch from Woolgoolga Seahorses.
The Group 2 season kicks off in April with the Ghosts to host reigning premiers Coffs Harbour Comets at Frank McGuren Field in the opening round.
The Grafton Ghosts are also welcoming all former players to join the club's Old Boys fraternity in 2019. Membership to the Old Boys will cost $100 for the season and will include a shirt, stubby holder, entry to all home games (excl. finals), admission to an old boys function day including lunch and drinks and entry into a random draw for a six-pack at each home game.
Get in touch with Phil Warby on 0408427438 to organise your membership.