Written by International Rugby League
Greece women will continue their build-up for qualification in France 2025 when they meet the Philippines in a fixture the Sampaguitas also view as a step in their ambition to become the first South-East Asian nation to play in a World Cup.
The first international of the year at Lidcombe Oval on Saturday, January 28 (5pm AEST) is an opportunity for Greece coach Stuart McLennan to assess his Australian-based players ahead of World Cup qualifying matches.
For the Philippines, it will be a chance to add to their playing depth in just their second official Test outing.
The Sampaguitas’ first sanctioned international resulted in a 6-0 loss to Malta last October but coach Tammy Fletcher believes her team improved as the match went on and will be better prepared against Greece.
However, the Philippines will be without star playmaker Renee Targett, who played for the St George Illawarra Dragons last year and was a member of the 2021 and 2022 NSW Origin squads.
Fletcher said: “We know that Renee is on board when she can be, but this match is just too close to the start of her season [with North Sydney Bears].
“There are a couple of other girls who can’t make it, but they will definitely be jumping back in towards the end of the year when we play more Tests.
“Since our match against Malta we have had all these new players come out of the woodwork with Filipino heritage, so it’s been awesome. We will be fielding our 23rd representative player in sanctioned Test matches against Greece.
“Our long-term aim is to play in the World Cup, so we have got quite a young squad with a few veterans like myself.
“It would be amazing to see the little Philippines from South-East Asia at a World Cup, but it is achievable.”
Greece are coming off the back of wins against Serbia (28-0) and Turkiye (8-4) to claim the European Championship B Southern title late last November but McLennan will field a different line-up against the Sampaguitas.
McLennan said: “This match against the Philippines provides us with the opportunity to assemble a group of Australian based Greek players to combine with our domestic ladies at the World Cup qualifiers later this year.
“We have run a couple of training sessions and the spirit amongst the players is excellent. We are expecting a tough match against the Sampaguitas who look to be a quality side.
“We look forward to the Greek community coming out to support us this Saturday at Lidcombe Oval.”
Sydney Roosters forward Samantha Economos is a notable absentee for the Greek squad as she has been selected in the Australian team for the Indoor Hockey World Cup in South Africa.
However, McLennan will have services of former NSW Under 18s hooker Janaya Bent, whose sister Shaylee was a member of the World Cup winning Jillaroos squad.
Fletcher nominated Queensland-based playmaker Natalia Webb as a player who could feature in the NRLW in coming seasons.
“She is a superstar in the making. She has just got to be seen to get an opportunity,” Fletcher said.
Greece: Angelina Ballas, Janaya Bent, Alexia Foster Papanicolau, Samantha Glumac, Stephanie Glumac, Antonia Kairis, Stella Lellis, Taliah Mafi, Panayiota Papafilopoulos, Maria Posantzis, Lisa Poulakis, Simone Stephen, Lavinia Taukamo, Jasmine Testa, Cherish Tseros, Christine Tsougranis, Ebony Tsoukas, Mikayla Tuliatu, Meleanna Waters (c).
Philippines: Stefanie Thomas, Pia Galon, Lila Reynolds, Tynia Wells, Natalia Webb, Tammy Fletcher (c), Jacky Lyden, Cassandra Koch, Janine Jamieson, Linae Williams, Meagan Rickertt, Leah Ellem, Charlene Vaughan, Takiah Buchanan, Taneisha Canoy, Stefanie Brown-Galbraith, Elana-Lee Grace, Denise Dowling.