Written by Stuart McLennan
Photo by Rugby League Review
Peter Mamouzelos had one of those weeks recently that most young sports people can only dream about.
After coming off the bench for South Sydney in the Jersey Flegg (Under 20s) competition, the eighteen year old, who was playing up a grade after completing his SG Ball (Under 18s) representative commitments, scored a try in the Rabbitohs victory over the Wests Tigers.
On the same day the baby faced hooker jumped on a plane to Athens with his parents Theo and Denise so that he could participate in a training camp prior to travelling to London for the Greece versus Norway 2021 World Cup qualifier.
It was at New River stadium in North London where Mamouzelos put his stamp on the international rugby league scene, winning the Man of the Match award and scoring four tries in Greece’s 56-26 victory over Norway and taking them in all possibility within one victory and World Cup qualification.
Heady days for the young Greek Australian who played his first games for Greece in the Emerging Nations Championship as a seventeen year old. He has been tipped by Greece and South Sydney officials to make it to NRL level if he continues to work hard.
Mamouzelos, whose father’s family are from Kalymnos and mother’s from Zakynthos, said the win and the tries were extra special knowing that it took Greece to one step away from a historic berth in the rugby league World Cup.
“It was an amazing feeling to represent my culture, both my grandparents are from Greece, they came over to Australia to give my parents a better lifestyle and just to give back to them and put on the jersey and represent their last names. I feel honoured.
“The four tries were just the cherry on the top. Especially seeing how hard the boys work and the development in Greece. It’s been such a long road to get here and we are now possibly one game off the World Cup.”
One of the key facets of his success is his speed off the mark from dummy half. It troubled the Norwegians all match and the hooker said he is fortunate to have noted Souths speedster Damien Cook at his club.
“I watch him (Cook) and just try to incorporate what he does into my game. I work on my speed. I’m not usually the fastest kid but I work on it because it’s what you need to make it these days.”
Mamouzelos has another element to his game that is common for cheeky hookers playing rugby league in Australia.
“It (niggling) is just a part of my game. To get in an opponent’s head. It’s all on the field. After when you walk off the field you are mates again. It’s just in the heat of the moment.”
Dad Theo who grew up in Redfern became emotional during the game and said as a little boy Peter has always loved playing the game and had an ambition to make it to the top.
“There is a lot of Greeks in Redfern and in Maroubra where we now live so it’s good,” Mamouzelos Senior said.
“His mother doesn’t like the niggling but I think it brings a bit of character to the game. He does it well.”
Peter also left a legacy behind in Athens in his short stay in the form of a new fan. Greek national team trainer Jim Minadakis, a lifelong Tigers NRL fan, who returned to Greece to live in 1995 said his son Johnny has become a Rabbitohs fan after meeting Mamouzelos.
“He was watching the Greece vs Norway match while we were overseas and he couldn’t believe what Mamouzelos was doing. When I got back from London he was wearing Pete’s number 9 jersey and said Dad I hope you won’t be upset with me and I know you’re a huge Tigers fan but I’m going to support the Rabbitohs and I can’t wait till Peter plays in the NRL. I was so happy for Greece going through to the next level that I didn’t care.”
Greece are scheduled to play Scotland at home on 2nd/3rd November followed by Russia away on 9th/10th November 2019 in the final qualifying rounds.
Due a lack of government recognition and hostilities from other Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) non-member Federations there is a real danger of Greece being unable play the game against Scotland on home soil.
The Greek Rugby League Association have commenced an appeal to the Rugby League family around the world. The campaign has been receiving support on Twitter and Facebook in the last week under the hashtag #LetGreecePlay.
A peaceful protest is planned for Tuesday June 11 at 11 am outside the Ministry of Sports in Athens to highlight the issue.
*To hear more about #LetGreecePlay listen to Chasing Kangaroos’ Podcast