Written by Stuart McLennan
This article was orignally published in October 2020
Greece rugby league skipper Jordan Meads is in celebration mode after steering the Beerwah Bulldogs, who he captained/coached this season, to their first premiership in 41 years.
With 12 months to go before the 2021 Rugby League World Cup kicks off at St James Park in Newcastle, England, his thoughts are turning to the nation that proudly wears the blue and white colours.
“Representing our nation on the world stage will undoubtedly be a career highlight for many young men in our squad. A lot of competing nations have the NRL, Super League or State of Origin to focus on first; for us it’s the World Cup, the 28 year old Meads told Everything Rugby League.
“All along the World Cup has been a ‘next year’ thing, however come January 1st it will be a ‘this year’ thing and that’s when it will really hit home.”
Anyone that doubts Jordan’s commitment to his heritage nation should know that the Greek halfback has written a letter to his grandparents on the morning of each of his nine test matches to thank them for the sacrifices they had to go through so that he and his family could live the life they live.
“I always write a letter to my grandparents before I play for Greece. The honour is never any less special than the previous Test and I know it means a lot to them. My Papou is no longer with us but I know he reads every word.”
“I’m half Greek and the only reason my last name isn’t Greek is because my heritage comes from my Mum’s side. Being Greek isn’t in the name, it’s in the blood.”
Meads will be joined at the World Cup by a number of local Greece team mates after it was announced at least eight domestic players will be in the squad of twenty four.
“The domestic boys are my brothers so I’m delighted their hard work will also culminate in a World Cup spot.
“The real ambition is to ensure rugby league in our home country is developing and this is just another step in the right direction. Five years ago the skill gap between the domestic and heritage players was vast – now, thanks to the quality of development, increase in participation numbers, and the ability for elite players to ply their trade in France and the UK, the gap is closing.
“I know for a fact that a large portion of those eight players will be in the squad because they are the among the best players available, not as a result of where they live.”
The Greek team will be based in Sheffield for the duration of the World Cup and Meads is anticipating plenty of warm South Yorkshire hospitality and strong support from the ‘steel city.’
“Sheffield is as mad about sport as anywhere in the UK! Being a proud, blue collar city, I’m sure they be rooting for the underdog and really get behind the event. I’m not sure that hospitality will extend to when we play England at Bramall Lane but what an experience to be a part of.
“I’m hearing there is a large Greek population within the city and like all proud Greeks, I’m sure they will immerse themselves within the culture of a World Cup.”
So how does captaining Greece in their first ever World Cup compare as a rugby league experience for a player who kicked a field goal in 2011 in extra time for the NZ Warriors to win the National Youth Championship (NYC) Grand Final 31-30 over the North Queensland Cowboys?
“Whenever you win a grand final – and I’ve been fortunate to win a couple – you think it’s the best feeling in the world. But when I sit down and really think about it, nothing comes close to qualifying for a World Cup. Captaining the squad has just been the cherry on top. I played in every qualification match over the course of three years and I’m incredibly blessed.
“The adversity our loyal rugby league men and women went through in our home country in order to achieve what we have is humbling.”
The Group A draw features England, Samoa and France along with Greece and the crafty halfback is fully aware that each match will be very tough for the fledgling rugby league nation. Quality preparation will be vital.
“The next 12 months will be significant so I’m really excited to put in the hard work and test myself against the best players in the world. A lot of our opposition are full-time so we’ve got the responsibility of working overtime. It’s not difficult to get yourself motivated for a Word Cup though is it?”
Meads has a a message for Greeks around the world to get behind their Hellenic nation’s rugby league team when they compete against the world’s best next year.
“We can’t wait to do you proud on the world stage. The gladiator mentality is in our genes and there is no sport more aligned to being a gladiator than rugby league.”
The Rugby League World Cup will commence on 23 October 2021. Greece’s opening match will be against France on 25 October at Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, England.