With the country having been in lockdown for the past six weeks, meaning just over half of the planned domestic games have been played to date, the Greek Rugby League Association has declared the 2019-20 domestic campaign void.
GRLA president George Stilianos commented: “If we had a clear runaway leader at this time we may have awarded the title, but it was very hotly contested and boiling up into a fine climax. The government took swift, strict action here, with the sports ministry calling off all competitions on 11 March. They are meeting again on Monday to discuss the lifting of some restrictions and it is likely that there will not be a return to playing until July. We were supposed to end in June – at best we could, perhaps, organise a hasty Grand Final but it is still unknown at this time.”
The domestic competition, spread over three conferences, was set to be a record-breaking one, with a total of 32 fixtures scheduled and 19 of them completed. Reigning champions Rhodes Knights were facing a strong challenge from Aris Eagles and Attica Rhinos, with new side AEK making an impressive start in their debut season and Athens City Raiders notching up a first-ever win.
Stilianos added: “While we did not get to finish what was set to be our biggest-ever season, we did manage to play 19 matches in five months. It was great to welcome the famous AEK club to our ranks, who made a positive impression and showed promise for the future. Athens City Raiders also joined with men’s and women’s team and showed plenty of enthusiasm. I just want to thank everyone – all the players, coaches, referees and volunteers involved – for making it such a great season.”
The women’s game continues to grow, Athens Raidettes joining Patras Panthers and Aris Eagles. Attica Rhinos are now planning to form a women’s team so that a four-team competition can start in October, whilst the women’s international with Serbia – initially scheduled for 11 April in Larisa – will be rescheduled.
Greece has also qualified for the men’s Rugby League World Cup for the first time, to be held in England next year, and Stilianos added that it too had been a factor for growth. “The standard of rugby league continues to improve and playing numbers increase,” he noted. “We are hopeful that the lockdown will be over soon so that we can get back to training and playing matches. The guys here have been really excited by the prospect of the nation being part of their first-ever World Cup; I’m sure that has also been a motivator.”