A RUGBY league player who lives in Birkenshaw has just returned home from the trip of a lifetime, winning an international tournament all the way out in Africa.

Bolu Fagborun, who is 33, was born in Nigeria but moved to Bradford at 18 months old. He played for his home country last week in the four-team MEA (Middle East Africa) Rugby League Championships in Lagos.

Fagborun scored the hosts' first try in their 23-12 semi-final victory over Ghana, giving his side a final showdown with Morocco, who beat Cameroon 8-4 in the other last-four clash.

Following a blistering first half performance, they hammered the North African side 38-10 to take home the trophy.

It was all a far cry from Fagborun's recent rugby experiences. After a Super League spell with Huddersfield Giants between 2004 and 2006, he spent time with Batley Bulldogs before playing his last professional game for Sheffield Eagles in 2009.

He turned out briefly for Rochdale Hornets the following year but for the majority of the last decade, Fagborun has played club rugby in Bradford for Bradford Dudley Hill and Birkenshaw Blue Dogs.

His Nigeria call up therefore came as a big surprise and speaking about his incredible experience, he said: "It was exciting but a bit daunting.

"I was worried about the heat and humidity out there, as well as whether I could get up to the required standard.

"It was a big step into the unknown but I spoke to my teammate Sadiq Adebiyi, whose full-time at London Broncos, just to get an idea of what they do nowadays in training.

"I trained at Hunslet Hawks to keep my fitness up and quickly got up to the right level, as the team were flying me out there and I didn't want to just be a bit-part player."

Fagborun was a lot more than that, admitting he was proud of his performances in the games against Ghana and Morocco.

He said: "It was exciting to score the first try against Ghana. It gave us a good start and got our confidence up, as a few of the home-based players were a bit nervous.

"As for the final, I knew we had a lot of attacking flair so I just plugged the defence, as some of the Nigerian lads aren't as experienced in that department, and made one or two big tackles.

"The Moroccans had four French-based players, an excellent kicker at number six and were physical, so we didn't want them to get on top.

"The team did really well in the first half and kept them at bay when they came at us in the first 20 minutes of the second half."

Fagborun was extremely positive when discussing his own future, as well as that of Nigerian rugby league.

He said: "My son plays rugby too and he's pushed me into it. Every time we've gone to see a match at a stadium in the last couple of years, he's said "Dad, why don't you play?" and I'd always say I was too old.

"But it would be great now to play in front of my family in the UK. Nigeria are really ambitious and would like to arrange a game against England Knights here.

"I'm hoping to keep going and play for Nigeria in the Emerging Nations World Championship, which is going ahead in (Greater) Manchester in 2021, with the aim being to help them reach their first World Cup in 2025.

"I was born in Nigeria but moved away when I was young and didn't go back for 27 years. I've always wanted to make an impact and two years ago, I set up a farm there.

"That allowed me to put a bit back into the country and obviously I know rugby league a lot too. When I was younger, Nigeria had no international team, but they've built it up and what's going on there now is incredible."

Fagborun's wife Helen Cook has been by his side all the way, and she spoke of her pride at her husband's remarkable comeback.

She enthused: "It's so surreal. We've been together for nine years and have three children together. He was playing for Rochdale when I met him in 2010 but then he just stopped really and we concentrated on having a family.

"He was just playing locally for Birkenshaw Blue Dogs and Bradford Dudley Hill but the African teams have scouts around the UK.

"They came to watch Bolu, chatted to him afterwards and he ended up being called up for Nigeria. He was part of their 60-man squad for the Rugby League Championships but was eventually selected for the final team.

"He was nervous, as he was playing with a lot of full-time players (like former Bradford Bulls loan man Tuoyo Egodo) but he felt like he was helping out his birth country, as they want to reach the World Cup.

"The kids and I couldn't get out to see Bolu at this tournament, but he owns a farm in Nigeria now, so hopefully we can go and visit at some point."