The Turkish Rugby League Association (TRLA) have announced that Aidan Sezer has joined their coaching staff for the upcoming European Championship Group D. The Australian born and raised halfback is the proud son of a Turkish father and an Indigenous Australian mother.
“Aidan brings on board his experience and professionalism, being very proud of his grassroots” a recent statement from the Turkish Rugby League stated.
Confirmed back in July 2021, Turkey will be pitted against Netherlands, Malta and Czechia (Czech Republic). The tournament will contain two rounds of matches with semi-finals on Thursday 14 October and the final and third-place playoff on Sunday 17th.
Gurol Yildiz, President of the Turkish Rugby League Association stated earlier in the year: “This is an amazing achievement for the TRLA management and we are looking forward to welcoming the European Rugby League family to Bodrum. We are especially grateful to the city’s mayor, Ahmet Aras, for his support in securing the event.”
Mayor Ahmet is also excited to see Bodrum hosting the event: “Hosting this event is a wonderful opportunity for Bodrum and Turkey,” Aras said. “We are honoured and excited that the city has been chosen for the first-ever rugby championship in the country. It will be an unforgettable occasion and the beginning of our long-term strategy to make Bodrum an international sporting destination.”
The fact that the group D tournament will be held in the Turkish city of Bodrum is a further sign that Europe has taken the next steps towards a post lockdown world. Bodrum is a city extremely rich in history, sitting on the site of the ancient city of Halicarnassus, home of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus which is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
Turkey has come a long way in a very short period of time. Qualifying for the trophy stage of the 2018 Emerging Nations World Cup by beating Japan 60-0, the team then beat Solomon Islands 30-22 in their first match of the tournament, one in which Aidan Sezer was involved. The team then went onto lose 29-16 to the Philippines in the semi-final. Turkey ended the competition on a high with a thrilling 27–26 win against Vanuatu. A team that wasn’t expected to do much proved to be one of the standout nations of the tournament.
More impressively though, Turkey set up a five-team domestic tournament; four teams based in Istanbul (Bilgi Badgers, Bosphorus Wolves, Kadikoy Bulls and Olimpos RK) and one team approx. 300km away in Eskisehir (Eskisehir Aqua Rugby). Like almost all sporting competitions around the world, Covid-19 put a stop to this competition temporarily however the creation of these clubs shows just some of the hard work being done by the TRLA on the smell of an oily rag. Desperately needed funds and sponsorships would go a long way to helping the game develop further in Turkey.
The staging of the European Championship Group D tournament in Bodrum is a further sign that the TRLA are keen to ensure rugby league expands even further outside of Istanbul. The city is located approx. 700km away on the South-west coast, ensuring the majority of fans in attendance will be watching live rugby league for the first time.
The fact that this tournament is going ahead shows the old apothegm of where there’s a will there’s a way reigns true. Whilst this writer could use this opportunity to relate this back to recent developments from two established rugby league nations, it’s important to focus on the incredible work being done by Turkey, Malta, Czechia and Netherlands. This will be some tournament. Well done to all involved.