FIVE years after being left wondering if he would ever play rugby league again, Shaun Mason is set to become a trailblazer for the international game when he heads to Poland with the Great Britain Teachers Rugby League team.

A geology teacher at Barrow Sixth Form College, the Roose Pioneers winger is heading to Poland with club-mate Sam Doyle, who works at the Pupil Referral Unit, for a tour which includes a match against the Polish national team.

It was not so long ago though that the 28-year-old stopped playing the sport after moving to the North-East to study and was instead getting his rugby fix in the 15-man code.

A return to the area for work saw him rejoin his original club Roose, which in turn opened the door for him to earn a place in the national team for those who work in education. He impressed during a trial match against Great Britain Police at Batley Bulldogs' Mount Pleasant ground.

“The opportunity to play something like this is completely unexpected,” said Mason, who will be on tour from October 26 to 30. “I went to university, went into teaching went to university and played rugby union in the North-East.

“If you play rugby league, up there you might as well play American football – it's just unheard of – and I never thought after five years away from the game, living away and working away as a teacher, that I'd manage to get to something of this level. I just love playing the game.”

This tour is significant for Mason and Doyle not only for the fact they have the opportunity to represent their country, but also because it is the first time the GBTRL team has travelled overseas to play.

The trip, which which will feature a warm-up game in Lodz followed by the showdown with Poland, is as much about spreading the word of rugby league and is set to include the team donating kit to help the sport's development in the country.

Such a tour does not come cheaply though, and the total cost is estimated to be around £10,000, with players having to pay their own way as the GBTRL receives no funding from the sport's governing body, the Rugby Football League.

Mason and Doyle are holding a race night at Roose's Redwaters home on Saturday (OCTOBER 22) to help raise money for their trip, with any surplus going to support the open-age and junior sections at Pioneers.

“We wanted to put something back in for the club in terms of any excess funds to help the development of the sport we love,” said Mason.

“All of the volunteers over the years have helped us get to where we are right now.”

Mason and Doyle are part of a squad which includes former professional player Mark Barlow and a number of National Conference League players, along with some who play at amateur level in the South of England.

The team train at Rochdale one Sunday a month, as well as competing in the Associations Cup in the first half of the year against the Great Britain Armed Forces, Police and England Students teams.

Mason is keen to encourage others from this area to join them after seizing the opportunity to get back into a sport which means so much to him.

“I'd stress to anyone who has not played the sport since school, or even if they've had a spell working away like me and had to fall out of the sport for whatever reason, it's never too late to take it up again,” said Mason.

“I planned to play until the age of 25, but that never happened for me because I had to go away to study and work. I played rugby union, but I really panged to play rugby league again and now I'm hoping to get past the age of 30 playing the sport.

“I never envisaged I'd have this opportunity, so I'd stress anyone who thinks they're beyond it should go back to their roots and back to the club they used to play for as a kid and take it up again.

“As a sport as a whole, it's starting to dwindle with shift patterns and things that can't be helped, but you're never too old to take it up again.”