Written by Stuart McLennan
When the full time whistle blows at the end of the match between the Aris Eagles and Attica Rhinos this Sunday, one team will go down in the history books as the first Greece women’s rugby league premiers.
Aris Eagles halfback and captain Sophie Kitsaneli is hoping it will be her team. She knows her opponents will provide stiff opposition but they will take confidence from a 32-16 win in their last encounter.
“The final is going to be a very strong match between two talented teams that have worked hard to get there,” Kitsaneli told Everything Rugby League.
“I am very confident in my teammates and their abilities, and I think the keys to achieving victory will be complete concentration on our game plan, a strong defensive line and fierceness from beginning to end.”
After joining the Aris Eagles as a forward when women’s rugby league in Greece commenced in 2019, Kitsaneli recently moved to the halfback role, guiding the Greece national team around the park in their victories over Turkey and Serbia in the European Championships last year.
“Playing as halfback is a relatively new role for me and I am definitely enjoying it. It was quite the change from playing prop/second row and I was very nervous and kind of confused when I started. Building confidence in the role of game management took time, but the experience gained at our 2 national team matches last autumn has been very beneficial for me. Obviously, I have loads to learn, so I try to keep my eyes on the Halfbacks when I watch matches, at training I ask for advice from more experienced players on our men’s team, and of course our coaches.
“Communicating with my teammates is also very important to get feedback on what they think is working, what is not, and how I can improve in game management.”
On the opposing side halfback, captain and fellow Greece international Styliani Markou is looking forward to running onto the field with her Attica Rhinos teammates.
“My teammates and I want to enjoy the game and of course winning is what we’ve been training for the whole season,” Markou said
“Smart plays, strong defence and teamwork are the key components for achieving victory.”
Looking ahead, Kitsaneli can see a bright future for women’s rugby league in Greece, both on the domestic and international fronts.
“I am definitely optimistic. I’m pretty sure we already have more teams and players than ever before and finally having a government recognised federation has already helped a lot. There is obviously still a long way to go, and we all need to keep working hard as players, coaches and federation officials to make the local championships bigger and better, and on a national team level we are aiming to have both a women’s and men’s team in the next rugby league world cup.”
The women’s grand final will be preceded by a men’s 9 tournament in what will be a gala day of rugby league in Athens on Sunday.
Men’s 9’s tournament starts at 11am followed by the Women’s Grand Final, Attica Rhinos vs Aris Eagles at 18:00, Sunday April 9, Gkorytsas Rugby Field, Aspropyrgos.
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