ITALIAN names do not come any more exotic than Brown.
League fans might be wondering how Parramatta Eels cult hero Nathan Brown qualifies for the Azzurri this World Cup.
Apart from knowing a good coffee and eating salami every day since the Italians arrived in Cairns for their opening Cup game against Ireland, Brown told The Daily Telegraph he qualified through his Italian mother, Loredana.
Before he moved in with Eels teammate Kaysa Pritchard four months ago, Brown was still living at home in Fairfield — the southwestern Sydney suburb with a rich Italian history — and with his nonna, Adelaide, who hails from the Lazio region of Italy.
“People are surprised (I’m Italian), but if you were to come to my house, you’d hear my mum and nonna speaking Italian all the time to each other,’’ Brown said.
“They’d always put on a nice Italian feed. My nonna still gets up to Marconi to play bingo. Mum is Italian, but dad (Shaun) is Aussie as they come.
“It will be an enormous honour to put on that first Italian jersey, and to represent my mum and her family back home, and my Italian relatives here. It will be a special moment for them.’’
Brown’s parents will make the trek to Cairns to watch their son in action against Ireland on Sunday.
The nuggety forward was eligible for Italy’s World Cup campaign in 2013, the same year he made his NRL debut with the Wests Tigers, only to tear his pectoral muscle late in the season.
Now 24, Brown is one of the most experienced players in the Italian side that features his Parramatta teammate Daniel Alvaro and former Tigers buddy James Tedesco.
This year’s Ken Thornett Medal winner for the Eels, Brown is keen to cap what has been a memorable season by helping $151 outsiders Italy progress deep into the tournament.
“We’ve got a decent side, some outstanding NRL players including Teddy, Daniel Alvaro and Paul Vaughan, who is one of the best NRL forwards in the game,’’ Brown said.
“We’ll go out to have some fun, ‘Ciro’ (coach Cameron Ciraldo) is doing a great job, and he’s a top bloke who knows his footy.
“There’s no better way to finish the year by playing for Italy. It will be a good experience and one I’m looking forward to.’’
Brown plays the game tough and worked overtime on tidying up his discipline this season. Capable of playing 80 minutes in the middle, Brown will be tested on Sunday given the steamy conditions expected at Barlow Park for the 2pm kick-off.