Nikos Bosmos - Greece
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your current rugby life?
My name is Nikos Bosmos, I am 34 years old, and I am from the Greek island of Rhodes. Since 2010, when I first started playing rugby, I have been part of the Rhodes Knights rugby club, and for the past few years I have been the captain of the team. I have also been playing for the Greek National team since 2014.
My three brothers and I own a restaurant in Rhodes city centre called Proavlio, serving Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. It is always hard juggling the two, but it was especially hard this summer - because on top of the already heavy work schedule, I had to prepare for the Rugby League World Cup and train more than usual.
Rhodes is one of the largest, most populous, and sunniest islands in Greece, situated in the Southeast Aegean Sea and visited by millions of people every year. The Old Town, also known as the Medieval City of Rhodes, is the oldest inhabited medieval city in Europe. Because of the Old Town, Rhodes is also known as the “Island of Knights”, which inspired the name of the team “Rhodes Knights”.
What has been your rugby journey up until now?
My rugby journey started in 2010, the year Rhodes Knights rugby club was founded. I took part in the first training session of the club, and I soon became attached to both the sport as well as my teammates. We trained in the Rhodes Medieval City moat, on 5x5 football pitches and on beaches of the island, and soon became Greek champions.
For a period of time, there were two teams on the island of Rhodes, the “Colossoi” and “Rhodes Knights”, until it was decided in 2013 to merge the two teams, under the name Rhodes Knights, and play rugby league.
Rhodes Knights won the first ever rugby league championship in Greece, during the 2013-14 season. From there, it only got better, as we won the next five consecutive championships. Unfortunately for the past three years, the championship has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
Rugby in Greece is an amateur sport, meaning all the players have their everyday jobs, and play rugby as a hobby. All the players pay for our own expenses when travelling for a game, we train at 6am in the morning to suit everyone’s work schedule, and then we go to work for 10 hours a day.
During the winter, Rhodes Knights train three times a week. During the summer we train once a week since most players work more in the summer. We have much less free time and it is off-season for the championship. However, it is not the same for the national players, who train more often, especially this summer to be ready and in good shape for the Rugby League World Cup.
The team has about 20 active players, plus 8 U19 players. Many of the players of Rhodes Knights have also played for the national team.
I have had many good moments in my rugby career, but the most important one was back in 2019 when the Greek National team qualified for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, after our big win against Serbia. It is a moment every Greek player will remember forever.
The worst moment of my journey so far was the long-lasting dispute that the Greek Federation had with the teams of the Greek League. This led to a lot of games taking place secretly at night, since the Federation did not recognise the League as a legitimate one.
Can you tell us more about the dispute between the federation and the league? Why was rugby league illegal in Greece?
The Hellenic Rugby League Federation (HRLF) was founded in 2013. In 2014, it was granted affiliate member status by the RLEF (Rugby League European Federation).
During 2015 there were a number of disputes between member clubs and the HRLF leading to a ‘no-confidence’ vote against the Federation.
Some Greek clubs decided to set up their own competition. However, that led to difficulties around them being refused permission to hire facilities. The situation came to the point that the only field left in the whole of Athens was only available after midnight, once all the football games had finished.
There were lots more difficulties which ultimately resulted in the original Federation being suspended, and ultimately expelled, from RLEF.
Meanwhile, the ‘rebel’ teams continued organising competitions. In 2017, Greek courts approved that the new Greek Rugby League Association (GRLA) was a legal entity, and the RLEF granted GRLA Observer status. However, the Greek Government still did not recognise the GRLA as the official Greek federation of Rugby League.
This led to many further problems, including the Police showing up in the 70th minute of a Balkan Super League match in Athens between the Attica Rhinos and Radnicki Nis of Serbia. The local authorities allowed the teams to complete the final 10 minutes of the game as a representative from each club attended the police station for questioning and statements.
Since the GRLA was recognised by the RLEF as the authority to run rugby league in Greece, a team was formed to participate in 2021 Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers. When Greece’s turn came to host a game against Malta, the match was organised in top secret on the outskirts of Athens. Neither Malta staff nor Greek players were told where the match was being played, for fear of police intervention. Each team was given a meeting point and driven by bus to the venue. None of them knew the venue until they actually arrived there.
GRLA kept playing the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers and we qualified in 2019 after the win against Serbia.
Finally, in August 2022, a few months before the Rugby League World Cup, the GRLA was finally recognised as the official body for the sport by the Greek Government.
What does rugby league and playing for your country mean to you?
For the past few years, rugby league has been a lifestyle, and I often prioritise it over other things in my life.
One of the best days of my life was when I first played wearing Greece’s colours against Malta in 2014. I never expected that 8 years later I would be playing at a World Cup, against players I watch every week on TV and who I have idolised since I first started playing.
To be playing at a World Cup is every player’s dream, and it is the biggest recognition of the effort and sacrifices we have made over the years.
What role does rugby league play in your community and country?
Rugby league is still an unknown sport in Greece. It was only in August 2022 that it was recognised by the Greek Government, after years of effort. Everyone that either plays or is involved with rugby league, played their part in getting the sport recognised.
I am hoping that after Greece’s participation in the Rugby League World Cup in England and with the recognition of the Greek Rugby League Federation, new foundations will be built that will help the sport to grow in Greece.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
I hope that after the World Cup, rugby league in Greece will gain wider recognition and more people, both children and adults, will want to play rugby league. This will boost the sport in the country and hopefully lead to more teams and academies being created, as well as more funding being collected for the teams and players to progress in championships and cup tournaments.
On a personal level, when the time comes for me to retire from playing, which is not that far away, I want to help my coach Michalis Chatziioannou with the training of my team, Rhodes Knight. One day I would like to coach the club’s U19 team.
What do you think the future looks like for rugby league after the RLWC? Why might the future be exciting? What would you like to change?
In this Rugby League World Cup in England there will be more teams taking part compared to the last one, helping the sport grow in more and more countries. Already in the past few years, more national teams have been created in Europe and worldwide, taking part in the qualifying rounds. Exciting things could happen in the future in the world of rugby league. It would be great to establish a European Cup or Championship at the same standard as the football competitions.