Written by Stuart McLennan
The Australian based contingent of the Greek women’s rugby league team surpassed all expectations, making the final of the Sydney International 9s before heartbreakingly losing in the last seconds to Lebanon.
After the call out went out for female Greek heritage players to form a squad in September last year, the ladies came together in February and participated in two training sessions under coach Stuart McLennan prior to the tournament at Cabramatta in Sydney.
A squad of 17 players was assembled for the tournament however the team suffered an early blow when captain Samantha Economos withdrew due to an ankle injury.
Prior to the first match Greek international and Cronulla Sharks NRL player Billy Magoulias presented each team member with their jersey.
Ably led by South Sydney forward Alexis Mavrantonis, the side managed a draw in their first encounter against a strong Malta team. After leading 8-0 at half time, a couple of errors early in the second half appeared to rattle the recently formed Greek team and a late Malta try in the corner resulted in a 12 all draw at full time. Lavinia Taukamo had the honour of scoring the first try in the corner after some slick passing sent the ball wide.
Learning from their first up experience the Greek girls minimised their errors in a tough encounter against host club Cabramatta. With a nil all halftime score the Greek ladies rallied in the second half to win narrowly by a converted try 6-0.
The team reserved their best performance of the day for the semi final against the Cook Islands. Up against a much bigger side the Greeks swarmed in defence forcing their opposition into errors. In attack the girls found space on the edges against a compressed defensive line, running out 18-4 winners after leading 8-0 at half time.
The Greeks took their impressive form into the women’s final against a quality Lebanon side. Ahead 4-0 at half time, the score was 4 all when the final siren rang after Mavrantonis and the team were forced to repel the Lebanese ream from their tryline with the opposition enjoying a mountain of possession. On the last play Lebanon managed to score a miracle try in the corner after a number of passes somehow found their mark. The try was converted and the final 10-4 score line against the Greeks was disappointing but capped off a highly successful first appearance for the squad.
Coach Stuart McLennan and Manager Terry Liberopoulos both commented on how impressive the performance had been given the short time they’d been together.
Greece is currently in negotiations to play a women’s international match in Vanuatu at the end of the year.
A group of players will join with the Greek domestic players to play international games once the global pandemic allows.
Greece played their first international women’s match in 2019 against Turkey in Edirne using all domestic players.
The team was scheduled to play Serbia in Larissa last year before the pandemic hit.
🇬🇷 Greece 12-12 Malta 🇲🇹
🇬🇷 Greece 6-0 Cabramatta 🇦🇺
🇬🇷 Greece 18-4 Cook islands 🇨🇰 (Semi Final)
🇱🇧 Lebanon 10- 4 Greece 🇬🇷 (Final)