Written by Stuart McLennan
It’s fair to say Alexis Mavrantonis is more than a bit excited about the upcoming weekend.
It began as a chat with a colleague in the South Sydney Rabbitohs administration office and will become reality on Saturday, February 20 when a group of Greek Aussie ladies don the blue and white jersey and compete in the Sydney 9s tournament at Cabramatta.
“The idea came from one of my colleagues. Teli Taktikos who had previously represented the men’s team, was showing us footage of previous games and we were talking about the 2021 World Cup where the Greek Men’s would be competing, yet I could not find anything about a Greek Women’s team,“ Alexis told Everything Rugby League.
The Greek National Women’s team made their debut in 2019 when a side made up of all domestic players competed against Turkey in Edirne marking the first international match for Greece.
After Mavrantonis made contact with Greek Rugby League Director and Team Manager Terry Liberopoulos and put the idea to him the squad rapidly materialised.
“As I went to a Greek primary school, I used to feel more connected to being Greek and learning about my culture, once you grow up it sadly fades and you lose that association. I think it is a great opportunity for the girls involved to reconnect and to also discover more about their heritage which they may not have known before,” said Alexis whose family has connections to Piraeus and Castellorizo.
Mavrantonis has a solid background in sport, commencing in childhood that eventually saw her given the opportunity to play rugby league for her beloved South Sydney club.
“Throughout my childhood, I was very active and competed in swimming and eventually went on to play basketball for about 10 years. I played with my school friends for CYS (Castellorizo Youth Society) and a few of us went on to play together for the Sydney Comets. We also had the opportunity to represent NSW at the Panhellenic Games in Melbourne and Canberra where we won gold medals at both.
“I have followed the NRL ever since I can remember with a split household of Rabbitohs and Bulldogs. Over the years this grew to playing competitively. In 2018, the Rabbitohs decided to enter the Harvey Norman Competition and this is when I became more aware of women playing rugby league. Little did I know that women had been playing for years and the Jillaroos had been competing for the past three decades. I started playing for the Redfern All Blacks in 2018 but unfortunately injured myself after getting 4 games in. It was devastating, I had found a new sport that I loved to play and was now out for at least 12 months. I trained hard to rehab myself to get back to where I was. I wanted to stay connected with the game and women’s rugby league.
“I was fortunate enough in 2018 that an opportunity came up to be the manager of the women’s rugby league team. I managed the team for two years working alongside the club, but it was COVID which instigated my return to playing. Throughout the break in the season I kept training and focused along with the help of my roommate and coach and I got to the point where the coach turned and said to me that I had worked hard and was fit enough to have a crack, so when we returned back to training I stepped down from being the team manager and debuted for the Rabbitohs in Round 2 of the revised competition – something I will never forget!”
Her passion for rugby league and the Rabbitohs doesn’t end on the playing field for Mavrantonis who works as Souths Sydney’s Match Day and Fan Development Manager, a position she has held for almost six years.
“I started off as an intern in the Membership department and volunteered my time in the office, match days and events. The hard work eventually paid off and as I finished studying at university I was able to secure a full time role working in Ticketing. Over the years as I developed and progressed through my career and I am now the Match Day and Fan Development Manager. This means I oversee the match day logistics and operations for NRL and NSW Cup events as well as fan engagement activities such as running junior rugby league clinics and engaging juniors to become Rabbitohs supporters.”
As Vice-Captain Mavrantonis is part of the leadership group for the newly formed Australian Greek squad along with Captain Samantha Economos who represented the NZ Warriors in the 2020 NRLW season.
“I am really excited to help lead the girls on our journey and to play along with someone like Sass (Economos) who has so much experience and knowledge in the game.”
While the Sydney Nines will be the first hit out for the squad, officials are in negotiations with Vanuatu to play a 13 a side international later this year. The eventual goal is for a number of the Australian heritage contingent to travel to Greece for training and playing with the domestic women’s players.
“To be able to wear the Greek jersey as part of the first Women’s Australian Greek Rugby League is an absolute honour and I am so proud to be part of the beginning and pave the way for the younger generation to aspire to play and connect with their heritage.
“I have never been over to Greece so excited is an understatement! It is hard with work to travel over to Europe in the summer months due to the NRL season clashing and now with COVID as another barrier. I think it will be an amazing, once in a lifetime experience where I can build a connection with the girls on and off the field”
The Sydney Nines will be held at New Era Stadium in Cabramatta on Saturday, February 20. The first match for the Greek Women’s team will be at 12:05 pm when they clash with Malta.
Note: Everything Rugby League correspondent Stuart McLennan will coach the first Greek Women’s team in Australia after being in charge of the inaugural Greece Women’s National team against Turkey in Edirne in 2019.