Trent Rose calls it an honour. Zac Merritt a surreal experience.
Either way, you get the feeling come 6pm on Saturday night when both run out for the First Nation Goannas at Redfern Oval, the pair will be bursting with pride.
Merritt and Rose are just two of 20 Indigenous players selected to take on the New Zealand Maori as part of the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League.
Alongside new Narromine captain-coach Wes Middleton, Cowra product Will Merritt and former Wellington star Justin Toomey-White, Rose and Zac Merritt help form a strong Western representation in the squad coached by Laurie Daley and selected after the 2017 Koori Knockouts.
“It’s unreal to be part of this squad,” Merritt, who has linked with Bathurst St Pat’s for the 2018 Group 10 season, said.
“As you’ve seen, Laurie Daley, Ken Nagas, Dean Widders, they’re all legends of the game. It’s a surreal experience at the moment.”
Merritt found out about his selection in the initial 40-man squad in November last year.
He described that announcement as a huge milestone, so you can imagine his reaction, and that of his family, when he found out he’d be part of the final team.
“George Rose called me up to say I’d made it, I was over the moon,” Merritt said.
“The Merritts are a proud aboriginal family and they were just so proud of me as well. Will’s my cousin, too, so it’s good to catch up with a few blokes I already knew.”
A powerhouse prop with footwork most backs would dream of, Merritt is obviously looking forward to the clash with the physical Maori line-up.
It’s unreal to be part of this squad.St Pat's prop Zac Merritt
But more so, he says the week with the Goannas boys and learning about being better role models in their respective communities has proven an invaluable experience.
“The whole week has been a dry camp, what they’re doing is putting out there that we’re leaders,” he said.
“They’re really big on us going home and developing into leaders for our community. Always say G’day to people, you never know, they might end up looking up to you one day.”
Daley believes the fixture, which kicks off at 6pm on Saturday at Redfern Oval, is great for the community.
“It’s great to interact with the community and learn more about our culture,” Daley said.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to represent their mobs. We’ll play with a special flair and magic we’re renowned for.”
Rose said he was proud to be part of the week: "It's an honour representing my people and my culture and to go up against another strong culture in the New Zealand Maori.”