20 May 2019
European Championships Norway 26 - Greece 56 - Report
Greece one step closer to RLWC2021
Teenage Greece hooker Peter Mamouzelos sobbed during a full-time phone call with his elderly grandmother after scoring four tries in a resounding World Cup qualifier win over Norway.
While most Australian-born 18-year-olds visit Europe for the first time carrying a backpack, the South Sydney youngster lugged his kit-back to the other said of the world during the Rabbitohs bye weekend to represent the land of his grandparents.
And he was unfortunate not to finish with a five-try haul as the Greeks raced to a 32-0 halftime lead before a stirring second half showing from the brave Norwegians.
“I’ve never been to Europe before and it’s just been amazing to learn about my culture,” said Mamouzelos. “This has been an incredible experience.
Yeah I almost got five but it’s down to the boys, it’s a team game.”
Coach Jim Pizanias said:
“If he keeps a good head on him we’ll see him in the NRL one day. For a young kid, he’s in tears now. That’s how much it means to him. talking to his grandmother.”
The result means Greece progresses to the final round of qualifying against Russia and Scotland for a spot in the 2021 World Cup in England. The top two teams in this group will go through; Greece have never before qualified for a World Cup.
Mamouzelos’ Sydney-born father Theo and mother Denise travelled from Sydney for the match, Theo said he had seen a transformation in his son since he was selected for Greece ahead of last year’s Emerging Nations World Cup, where he was judged the player of the tournament. He spoke to 78-year-old grandmother Despina on the phone shortly after full time.
The first change was in leadership. “He’s always been laid back,” said Theo. “What I noticed was that he was trying to help the other Greek players work on plays, he really came into himself, I was really proud of him.”
The second? “He started to talk a little bit of Greek! He was more keen to learn his language. His grandparents speak to him. He knows a yes or a no but now he’s trying to say more.”
With former Junior Kiwis half Jordan Meads pulling the strings, Greece weathered a nervous start from both teams and then piled on the points. But after the break, with the pressure off somewhat, they played some breath-taking rugby league to outscore their more illustrious rivals.
“The first half was terrible, terrible,” says Norway coach Dave Hunter. “Our match plan was to complete the first four sets even if it meant one-man hit-ups. Instead, we just did stupid things.
“It was a pretty tough halftime talk, I can tell you and after halftime we did improve. I mean, they had an Australian spine which is hard for these guys to compete with.”
The question now is whether Greece will be allowed to play the Scotland match at home, with a rival governing body so far stymying their attempts to stage events in Athens.
“I thought if we blew them off the park in that first half, we could hold on,” said Pizanias.
“I hope we can have this game in Athens and have all of Greece behind us.
“But if not, you know what? We’ll give it our best shot and hopefully we can get a win out of those two games.”
Qualifying play continues with South Africa and Cook Islands meeting at Sydney’s Ringrose Park on June 21.