Greece’s women’s Rugby League team have been crowned Euro B Group champions after smashing Serbia 28-0 in a historic match in Athens.
An impressive and loud crowd of over 700 people were on hand at Gorytsa Stadium, Aspropyrgos, to see the first official Rugby League match played on Greek soil since the sport gained government recognition as a separate entity. The Greek girls would help mark the occasion in the best possibly style with their resounding victory.
Greece chalked up six tries and two goals in the controlled performance, with Kleopatra Velmachou (Aris Eagles), Aspasia Stavrianou (Athens Raiders), Velissaria Koutsioumpa (Attica Rhinos) Styliani Markou (Attica Rhinos), Antonia Voikli (Attica Rhinos), Dimitra Papoutsi (Patras Panthers) all crossing the line, while Sofia Margarita Kitsaneli (Aris Eagles) and Velmachou knocked over two goals.
But it was Greece’s defence that would shine brightest on the day, with the side keeping Serbia’s score-sheet blank thanks to a combination of strong on-field communication, and scramble defence.
For Greece Head Coach, Stuart McLennan, the result is one that he could hardly have conceived of.
“When we put our training plan together a few months ago it was beyond our wildest dreams that we would win our Euro B group,” admits McLennan.
“It’s a credit to the talent and tenacity of the players that we were able to pull off this big win today.”
McLennan also heaped praise on the estimated 700-strong crowd of overwhelmingly Greek supporters.
“The support from the Athens local community at the match today was amazing and the players were inspired by the large cheering crowd.”
The result follows last week’s tenacious 8-4 win over Turkey in Istanbul.
The championship is a milestone moment not just for Greek women’s Rugby League, but also for the sport in general in Greece.
Just two months ago, Rugby League’s future seemed bleak. Games were necessarily being played in secret, and with the men’s national side – now just days away from their first World Cup appearance – unable to play their qualifiers on home soil owing to lack of Government recognition.
That all changed in August though thanks to the work of dedicated Greek Rugby League officials who successfully lobbied to have the sport officially recognised in Greece – decoupling it from its strange, forced connection with the federation of Modern Pentathlon.
Greek Rugby League official and Sydney local, Terry Liberopoulos, recently appeared on the Ouzo Talk podcast alongside Greek men’s Head Coach Steve Georgallis, and Greece’s hooker in South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Peter Mamouzelos, to talk about the journey that the fledgling Greek game has taken.
The Greek women’s side will now turn their attention to making the next World Cup, with qualifiers set to take place in October next year.
Greece 28: Kleopatra Velmachou, Aspasia Stavrianou, Velissaria Koutsioumpa, Styliani Markou, Antonia Voikli, Dimitra Papoutsi, tries | Goals: Sofia Margarita Kitsaneli, Kleoptra Velmachou