By STEVE MASCORD
THE United Kingdom is a place of pride for Gold Coast prop Luke Douglas. And a place of sorrow.
Six decades ago, his grandfather Archibald Douglas – a name carried by noblemen in Scotland going back a thousand years – took flight to Australia in the face of difficult economic times. “He’s got a big book about it,” says 27-year-old Luke.
The former Cronulla front rower always intended to represent the Bravehearts rugby league team. It was just a matter of timing.
This spring, he’s in. But travelling to the World Cup won’t just be a case of honouring his grandfather.
“I’m trying to get my dad over,” he tells League Week in the Titans sheds after a recent victory.
“I was over there for a month last year, it was my first ever time. My mum and dad went over last time, that’s when she had the turn.
“It was just hospital every day.
“He’s a bit uncertain yet, because of what happened last time but I’m trying to get him to go over and see the Douglas castle and all that sort of stuff over in Scotland.”
Luke’s mother Trish died in May as a result of the illness that had led to her being hospitalised in Britain late last year. She had a heart attack on the flight over, prompting a dash across the world by Luke, before a melanoma was discovered.
One son, Jake, now plays domestic rugby union in England while Kane is a Wallaby and will be on tour at the time of the World Cup – the event Trish and Chris Douglas followed him on 11 months ago.
For many reasons, Luke Douglas is far from the image of an international rugby league ring-in with no knowledge of the language or culture of the team he’s representing.
“The manager put it (out there) and they asked me,” he said of the link with Steve McCormack’s team. “My pop moved over when he was about 25, 26. There’s pretty strong Scottish heritage there and it should be a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ve learned fair bit off pop. He’s right up to date on all the heritage and it’s pretty strong. There’s a lot of history in the Douglas clans. I’m keen to suss it all out once I get over there.
“He’d be early eighties. (In Scotland), it’s mainly soccer, footy as they call it, and rugby’s second. He’s a soccer guy, all that Catholic v Protestant stuff. He’s brought up on that, came out just a year ago. He had to flee, it was a tough time (when he was young). The rich guys moved onto America and he came through to Australia. There was a bit of a war or something.
“I might spend a week after we get knocked out – hopefully we can go good – and do a bit of background and heritage.”
And despite being in a tough pool, Douglas is confident that with the likes of Keith Galloway, Danny Brough, Michael Robertson, James McManus and Kane Linnett, the Bravehearts can “go good”
“We’ve got a pretty strong draw over there, against Italy who’ve got a pretty good side and also Tonga, who’ve got a good side too,” the Yamba-raised Australian Prime Minister’s XIII rep says.
“We play them and also America. I’m not sure of our squad too much yet. I know Kane Linnett put his hand up. I spoke to (Keith Galloway) and he said if everything goes sweet … he’s just back from injury … he’s going to go … Michael Robertson … James McManus
“This could be my last chance so I thought I’d go and have a go.
“We should be able to give a good show. I think Tonga and Italy are pretty beatable, even though they’ve got good squads. Anything can happen if we can get through that initial pool stage.”
One way or another, Luke Douglas is not going to let a place get him down. His grandfather’s pride will ensure that. And he’s keen that father Chris overcomes his own traumatic fears to make the same trip that ended in tragedy just a year ago.
“I might get over there and get some good memories,” Luke says, “instead of the hospital.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK