Swiss exchange student Mario Scognamiglio will head home after his time in Queensland boasting a true Aussie experience – playing A Grade rugby league in the challenging Central Highlands competition.
Going from never having seen a game of rugby league in his life, to playing top grade with the Emerald Tigers in a matter of months, Scognamiglio has proven himself to be a true adventurer at heart.
The 17-year-old has been studying at Marist College Emerald, where he has caught a fever for the sport from classmates and even his teacher, Leith Paton.
Paton, 32, a premiership-winning lock for the Tigers in 2016, ran alongside his young student when he received his chance to represent Emerald.
Scognamiglio lined up on the wing and earnt applause for his gutsy effort against some battle-hardened veterans.
Teammate Jay Edwards, a prominent supporter of international rugby league, was one to sing the Swiss sensation's praises.
"Mario's now got a handful of A Grade games under his belt and loved it," said Edwards.
"He's a champion lad."
Scognamiglio also represented his school in the Confraternity Carnival in Charters Towers earlier this year.
"His goal in Australia is to only participate in activities he can't do back home in Switzerland," host family parent Vanessa Pain said.
"He's a very determined young man with an infectious enthusiasm."
Switzerland is currently one of the last remaining nations in central Europe where rugby league is not played.
Scognamiglio revealed he normally followed pursuits such as skateboarding, snowboarding, volleyball and soccer when in his hometown of Zurich.
"I was definitely nervous to play rugby league against the men, but they put me on the wing where it wasn't quite as intense and I appreciated that," said Mario.
"The experience taught me that sport connects people of all ages."
"You had young guys like me still at school, playing some guys who were around 40 and the game brought us all together."
Scognamiglio said he had overcome initial trepidation about spending his exchange year in Emerald – a place he "couldn't find out much about on the internet" – and had grown to love the region.
He plans to travel to see other parts of Australia when the school year ends in November.
To cap off a whirlwind few months, Mario scored his first-ever rugby league try this week in a local school derby between Marist and Emerald State High.