You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

James Tedesco isn’t sure if he will sing both national anthems when he leads Australia against Italy but even if he can’t remember the words to Il Canto degli Italiani his rivals are still proud that a former teammate is now the Kangaroos captain.

Tedesco, whose grandparents immigrated from San Giovanni in the 1960s and sold flowers at Sydney Markets, has played more Tests for the Azzurri (seven) than the Kangaroos (six) and is considered a role model by the Italian players.

“We are very proud of Teddy and what he has achieved,” Italy coach Leo Epifania said. “It just shows what can come from this.

“Teddy is a great player, and he didn’t let Italy down. He has been to two World Cups [2013 and 2017] to play for Italy so we are very proud of that, and I am sure there will be an emotional attachment for Teddy before the game.”

Tedesco and Mark Minichiello sing the Italian anthem during the 2017 World Cup.
Tedesco and Mark Minichiello sing the Italian anthem during the 2017 World Cup.

Asked if he would sing the Italian national anthem before the match at St Helens, Tedesco said: “I’ll see if I can remember it. I haven’t sung it for a while”.

Growing up, the Sydney Roosters superstar learned about his Italian heritage from his nonno, Salvatore, and nonna, Carmela, with whom he lived while playing for Wests Tigers.

“I would come home, and she would do my washing and cooking for me,” he said. “I was well looked after.”

Carmela was one of the first people Tedesco broke the news to after his appointment as Australian captain for the World Cup.

“I went and visited her after I got told,” Tedesco said. “She was always so proud and says she prays for me every night to make sure I am healthy and happy.

“Back in 2013 Nonna didn’t really know too much about footy but me playing first grade and playing for Italy sparked her interest.

“My memories as a kid are going with Nonno to the markets at 2am. I remember the flowers were Nonno’s life and he didn’t stop going to the markets until he was in his 80s.”

Tedesco’s knowledge about his Italian heritage is what Epifania wants all members of his squad to possess and the players have been learning about their family’s history while in camp.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by James Tedesco (@jamestedesco)

Epifania has engaged a company CO.AS.IT. - an Australian-based company that works with the Italian government - to ensure the players know the history of migration from Italy to Australia after World War II.

“They come in and actually educate the players on what was it like on a boat for 30 days, what did it look like when they arrived in Australia and what did they have to go through for us to be able to play,” he said.

“It is about respect and just knowing how you got that jersey and having a clearer picture on what you are playing for.

“They are a lot closer to it than I imagined. A lot of the players talk about their nonna or their nonno, and growing up with them. We have gone through a process where they need to know where they came from, what the town was like back in Italy, when they came to Australia.

“The fill paperwork out around it so we know each player’s cultural background and they need to know it as well.  If people don’t have belief and reason, then what are they playing for.”

For Tedesco, the opportunity to represent Italy at the 2013 World Cup was a springboard to a career in which he has now achieved almost everything the game has to offer.

“I gained a lot of confidence from that World Cup, and playing against some really good NRL players at the time,” he said.

“The whole experience, I loved it. I played pretty well in the centres and came into 2014 and played some really good footy. 

“I had some injury concerns as well but after that I felt really good about my game. I had that opportunity to represent Italy and I am very strong and connected with my Italian side of my family.

“Now I can finally represent Australia. That is who I am. I am Australian.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.