IT seems fitting that Japan will be the country Ryley Batt enters the top echelon of Australian wheelchair rugby players.
When Batt captains the Australian Steelers in Tokyo next week he will become just the third player in Steelers history to play 250 games for their country.
Batt will join Nazim Erdem and Ryan Scott as a select few to have made the list.
It’s an incredible achievement to do it in the game he will have the © next to his name.
“I will have reached the 250 games at the tender age of 28,” he said.
“Who knew I’d get that far, who knows how much further I’ve got to go, but it has been a hard slog.”
Incredibly, Batt made his Steelers debut as a teenager in the same country the Australians will compete in at the 2017 Japan Para Wheelchair Rugby Championships.
The Steelers will battle Japan and United States in a competition that sees the top three countries in the world compete against each other.
A lot has happened since Batt made his national debut as a fresh-faced 14-year-old.
“When you think back to the first game ever, it was in Japan so now I’ll hit the 250 back in Japan which is crazy because it will probably at the same venue too,” Batt said.
The 27-year-old, who will celebrate his 28th birthday somewhere in international air space admitted he had always had a soft spot for the Asian country.
“I’ve always loved the country and I love their food,” he said.
Japan is a special place for me and it’s a place I really enjoy the heritage and the culture.
His enjoyment of the country extends to a Samurai which is tattooed on his arm.
Should Batt sign off in the Japanese capital in three years time, it would ensure his career completed a full circle.
“It’s funny that my first international game was playing for Australia over there and plans after Tokyo 2020 is that it might be my last game there,” he said.
“It’s a special place for me and it’s a place I really enjoy the heritage and the culture.”
Batt was proud to join Erdem and Scott at the top of the tree as they were the players he idolised when he was new to the national team all those years ago.
“They’re two players I’ve looked up to throughout my career who started before me,” he said.
“Reaching 250 games is a big milestone in my eyes and I’m looking forward to the next three years on the road to Tokyo 2020 so I might play in another 50 games and bring up the 300 there.”
In a perfect world, Batt would have celebrated his 250th game in the gold medal match at Rio, but it wasn’t to be.
“I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed not to have done it there, but it just didn’t work out and Japan will be just as good.”