Greece’s over 45’s Oz-tag team took the silver medal at the weekend’s Oceania Cup in New Zealand, with the Australian-based side narrowly going down in Sunday’s grand final to the tournament hosts in Auckland.
Greece came into the tournament final with five wins, including impressive showings against the Cook Islands, American Samoa, and New Zealand Invitational to secure a grand final berth against New Zealand Maori.
Comprised of Sydney-based former lower grade Rugby League players including the likes of George Siambis, John Filipis and Peter Mougios, the Greeks went to Auckland with enough talent to make a statement.
With the grand final hanging in the balance at the back end of the second half, the Greeks seemingly had the Kiwis on the ropes thanks to a build-up of momentum sparked by an incredible defensive showing, coupled by their superior territorial game and an inspirational try by captain Con Benardos.
The home-side would ultimately be too good on the day though, running away with a narrow 5-2 victory.
Proud Greek player and Ouzo Talk Podcast host, Nick Athanassiou, said that it was the clock that ultimately beat the Greek side.
“If there were five more minutes in that game, we would have beaten them,” Nick told The Greek Herald.
“The boys put in such a great effort over the weekend and everything seemed to align for us. This is our highest ever finish at the tournament, which really says a lot about how much we’ve improved over the years! We just seem to be getting better with age.”
The Greeks were a hit with the locals as well as their fellow competitors, with plenty of banter exchanges before and after matches.
“We developed such a great relationship with some of these teams – particularly the Cook Islands boys,” Athanassiou added.
“They invited us into their tent, we shared food, drinks and there was just this great feeling of camaraderie all throughout the tournament. It’s what sport is all about.”
A small contingent of Cook islander kids followed the Greek team over the weekend cheering with every great play and running onto the field with high fives after a try was scored.
“I don’t even get this support from my own kids” Vass Anastasiou joked.
The gracious supportive kids did manage to walk away with Greek gear donated generously by members of the team on the last day of competition.
Oztag is a non-tackling version of Rugby League. Each team has eight players at any one time on the field, and must remove one or both tags worn on the opposition ball-carrier’s shorts to stop attacker’s progress.
The squad members are: Angelo Berios, Con Benardos, Foti Hristopanos, George Siambis, Harry Georges, Ilias Tsivitis, Jimmy Binios, John Filipis, John Tzavaras, Michael Bourdakis, Nektario Stefanis, Nick Athanassiou, Peter Constantiniou, Peter Mougios, Savas Topalidis, Vass Anastasiou.
*All photos from New Zealand Tag Football Inc.