THE Shoalhaven Rugby Club has a rich tradition of overseas imports pulling on the green and gold.
It all started with New Zealander Andrew Prattley in 1977, who went on to play for NSW Country during his stint.
Pioneer Prattley paved the way for players such as junior All Black Phil Olsen, Welsh under 21s hooker and captain Ian Wall, Kiwi centres Ray Barchard and John Wilson (who came to town with the Royal New Zealand Airforce) and Welsh duo Gary Davies and Ian Herbert.
Other notable imports included Scottish trio prop Gordon Clark (who also played for NSW Country), under 21s fly-half Andy White and number eight Ross Dunlop, English second-rower Andy Gardiner and Canadians Mark and Dave Sproule.
The club was even coached by New Zealander Ted Moir in 1990.
And who could forget the travelling Kiwi backpackers Wal and Kutch.
The latest of this long line of imports are Irish trio Aaron McDonnell, Michael Raftery and David Priestman - who all join from Old Wesley RFC in Dublin.
"I had wanted to come out for some time, having heard only good things from mates and family members who had done the trip out over the years," Priestman said.
"Having completed a marketing masters in August, I thought it was as good a time as any to book the flight across the pond before getting too comfy in a job back home.
"I knew the lads [Aaron and Michael] were keen as well and the final decision was made after a few pints of Guinness.
"One of our mates Sam, son of Paul Connor coaching at Shoalies, had played a season with us during his year in Ireland in 2018, so it was an easy choice when it came to looking for a club to play for once we landed here."
Priestman, a centre, started playing the 'game they play in heaven' at age five, thanks to his father's influence.
He progressed all the way through the ranks at Old Wesley, where he won two straight premierships.
"All three of us boys shared a similar path at Old Wesley, with Michael and Aaron starting at five and 15 respectively - before progressing into the senior squad," he said.
"The club's motto; 'A club for life' really holds true when you consider the generations of players and club stalwarts who have been apart of the club for years."
The trio's initiation to the Illawarra Rugby club didn't go according to plan, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"When we left Ireland in February, the season was due to continue for another two months but was cancelled due to COVID-19," Priestman, who first stayed at the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel with his two teammates thanks to the generosity of Lee Maddinson, said.
"It could have easily been the case here.
"As disappointing as it was to have the season delayed until August, we are delighted to have some form of a season and that we will get to play nine games instead of none."
The three imports finally got to meet their Rugby Park-based teammates in June, when the club resumed modified training.
"The original restrictions in group sizes at training limited the drills we could do, so we were worked hard to get the fitness levels back," Priestman, who did plenty of individual running and home workouts during lockdown to stay fit, said.
"As restrictions have gradually eased, we have been able to return to normality in training as a team.
"It's was a great feeling to be back on the pitch though and we've loved it so far."
Priestman, winger McDonnell and second-rower Raftery will get their first chance to pull on Shoals colours on Saturday, August 1 when the club travel north to Viking Park.
"Our first game is away to Vikings and I've heard the oval can be a tough place to go and so I'm excited to get stuck in from game one," Priestman, who hopes to bring intensity and strong communication skills to the club, said.
The trio, who are all working at Nowchem, have big goals for their time 'down under'.
"Defence was something we pride ourselves on back home with Wesley, so I'd like to bring a strong defensive presence to the Shoals," he said.
"As a team, I'd like to aim to win all games at Rugby Park and challenge for the title this season."
Shoals continued their season preparation on Saturday, with a 49-15 trial match win against Batemans Bay at Hanging Rock Oval.