While Steve Georgallis never represented Australia during his decorated Rugby League career, as coach of the Greek National team he is only two wins away from qualifying for the 2021 World Cup in England.
The former Wests Tigers legend played 229 games during his career which included an appearance for NSW in the State of Origin team and also represented Greece in their first ever international.
Georgallis has the distinction of also being the first Greek Australian to be head coach of an NRL team when he coached the Penrith Panthers during the 2012 season.
The Greek Australian took time from his busy schedule as Canterbury Bulldogs Assistant coach to speak to Neos Kosmos about his delight at being involved with the Greek national team.
“Obviously my father is Greek and I am very passionate about my heritage” said the 50-year-old. “I played the game for a long time and coached for a long time and I offer the Greek players my experience. The Greek players love playing and they want to play and when you have players like that I can’t see how they can’t succeed. I also think Greeks are built to play rugby league as they enjoy competing in contact sports like wrestling.”
From Dr George Peponis, to Braith Anasta, John Skandalis, George Gatis, Michael Korkidas, and Nick Kouparitsas the influence of Greek Australian players in local rugby league is pronounced. Georgallis revealed one player especially inspired his career.
“Growing up I used to look at players like Peponis,” he said. “Rugby League wasn’t big in our culture, they don’t play the sport in Greece and obviously our parents aren’t going to push us towards those sports. It was mainly soccer but those players were our heroes and we thought those Greek guys made it so we might as well have a go.”
Georgallis coached Greece at last year’s emerging Nations World Championship which was held in Sydney and featured Cronulla’s Billy Magoulias and former Rooster Michael Korkidas.
He revealed that mentoring four young Greek players who flew over from Greece specifically for the tournament was thrilling.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “Especially for those four young Greek players to be involved and playing with players who are at a higher level. All four players stayed at my house and Nick Politis also helped out, he paid for their airfares to come out. It was a really good experience and we unearthed a few younger players as we look ahead to the future.”
If Greece defeat Norway on May 18 in London and secure victory over either Scotland or Russia in the group they will qualify for the 2021 World Cup.
If that occurs Georgallis believes it would provide a massive boost to the sport in Greece.
“We started in 2003 and it’s now 2019, so it been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work in setting up a domestic competition. It would be about being competitive and winning games. If we do make the World Cup it would be a massive thing for rugby league in Greece.”