Written by Stuart McLennan
Grassroots and international rugby league should be carefully nurtured to ensure the future of the game. They are elements that will feed and grow the sport to make it stronger across the globe.
Jim Pizanias’ rugby league life has stretched across both of these facets while also dipping into the top echelon.
His passion for rugby league was ignited by renowned coach Brian Smith at James Cook Boys High School after Smith persuaded him away from the round ball code. From there Pizanias never looked back.
After playing in junior representative sides for the St George Dragons and the red and whites Presidents Cup team, he signed with Newtown in 1992 and played in what was then known as the Metropolitan Cup for five years.
In 2003, at the ripe old age of 33, Pizanias played the very first international match for Greece vs Italy at Kogarah Stadium. He describes the feeling of pulling on the Greek jumper as “something I will never forget.” He went on to play in four official Internationals and a few friendly games for Greece.
Jim took up coaching in 2006 after Head Coach Steve Georgallis asked him to be his assistant for the Greek National team.
His coaching career blossomed after that. Appointments included a number of tertiary representative teams, assisting Nathan Brown at the Newcastle Knights, Head Coach of the Cronulla Sharks Harold Matthews Cup team last year and a number of years as Assistant Coach at the Newtown Jets (which included winning the state and national titles in 2019)
When Head Coach Steve Georgallis was unable to travel to the UK and Europe for Greece’s latter qualifying games due to his Canterbury Bulldogs commitments, Pizanias oversaw the team progressing to participating in their first-ever World Cup in 2021.
First time I saw rugby league
The first time I saw a game was on television when I was five years old. It was a Bulldogs game which featured (Former Kangaroos Captain) Dr George Peponis and I have followed the game ever since
First I time I played rugby league
First game of rugby league was when I went to high school (James Cook Boy’s High) and in the junior league, it was with Brighton Seagulls.
Before then I played soccer, so when I got to high school my intention was to keep playing soccer, but little did I know James Cook was a rugby league school and Brian Smith had a way with words, It was a PE lesson and obviously it got back to him that I was going to trial to get into the soccer team, After the lesson Mr Smith took me into his office and basically said that he thought I could be a good rugby league player and encouraged me to trial for the rugby league team, I have played rugby league ever since.
First team I followed
When I was younger I followed the Bulldogs because of Dr George Peponis but obviously ever since I got graded at the Dragons in 1991 I followed them.
First player of any era I would pick in my dream team
I would pick Andrew Johns because he could do things with the ball that very few can and had a great footy brain.
First non Tier 1 country I would you like to see win the World Cup
Obviously I would love to see Greece win a World Cup because so many people have contributed over and above what anyone else would to try and see Greece up in the limelight.
First thing I would change in rugby league
Funding would be distributed starting from the grassroots and working our way up rather than the other way round where I thinking funding is spent up top and does not get to the grassroots.