It was a proud moment for Greek Rugby League Women’s coach Stuart McLennan as he watched his team defeat some of the world’s best women’s sides, making it through to the grand final of the Sydney International 9s tournament on February 20 at Cabramatta.
The women’s team got together three weeks prior to the tournament, holding only two training sessions. Unsure how they’d fair, McLennan said he was “extremely proud of their efforts” on the day.
“I couldn’t have asked for more from the girls,” McLennan said to The Greek Herald.
“They were just fantastic. They showed a lot of talent, but also they bonded well as a team with spirit and a lot of resilience as well. So I was very impressed.”
Despite forecasted rain, the day turned out perfect for the women to enjoy a full tournament without disruption. Prior to its commencement, the team was presented with jersey’s by Cronulla Sharks and Greek national side representative Billy Magoulias.
“That was amazing and just shows how solid the Greek Rugby League family is. The fact that Billy took the time out to come and have a chat to the girls and hand out the jerseys.”
Captain Samantha Economos was prepared to lead the women in their matches on Saturday, yet unfortunately suffered an ankle injury in a trial that same morning.
International representative Alexis Mavrantonis was fortunately able to step up to the plate and help the squad bond together, McLennan said.
“She took over as captain and not only was fantastic on the field, she was a great leader off the field as well. Was an inspirational display.”
The teams were divided into four brackets of three teams, with the Greek side going up against Malta and Cabramatta in the first round. The first match against Malta ended 12-12, with the girls then needing a win against Cabramatta to advance to the semi-finals.
Despite being name the ‘Powerhouse Club’ of the tournament, the Greeks managed to defeat Cabramatta 6-0 and advance to the semi-finals to face Cook Islands.
“We played our semi-final against Cook Islands and we won that game 8-4, which was probably our best effort in the tournament to be honest,” McLennan said about the semi-final match.
“The girls played really well in that game as Cook Islands were a strong team.”
Up against Lebanon in the final, the Greek girls managed to get ahead 4-0 at half time. Lebanon proved to come back strong as they drew the match 4-4, putting intense pressure in the final moments of the match.
In what McLennan described as a “miracle” for Lebanon, the Greeks’ opposition managed to score a try in the last play of match, with the final siren having already gone off. Lebanon converted the try and beat the Greeks 10-4.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s a starting point for the squad. And it was always going to be a starting point… the number one reason to get them together, but also to have a point where we could move onwards.”
“So we’ll be looking at holding regular training sessions and social events.”
McLennan concluded that Greece is currently in negotiations to play a women’s international match in Vanuatu at the end of the year.