Two victories at the start of 2017 (beating Uruguay 50-4 and Thailand 44-10) are Hungary Rugby League’s initial successes in the international arena. Following them, Hungary secured the highest rise in the recently published Rugby League International Federation World Rankings, moving up five places to 33rd.
“On the back of two international wins, interest in rugby league in Hungary has spiked,” said HRLF official Zsolt Lukacs. “We’ve had record numbers of people enquiring about trying out, and as a result we are planning three more Test matches to be played this year.
“One against Poland will be played in Budapest, and a home and away series will be played against the Czech Republic. For those games, there will be four heritage players travelling from Australia to Hungary to work with the domestic players for a month. They will assist in developing our domestic game. And in exchange, the HRLF has arranged to have a number of domestic players travel to Australia each year, in October or November, to play in representative matches there.”
“The Magyar Bulls will compete in the Kings Cup in Thailand over nine days in October, for which they will receive intense training from Jonathan Wilson as well as Phil Perry and Jayden McGregor, Hungary’s Level 2 and Level 1 trainers. And looking forward to 2018, plans are in place for up to 10 domestic Hungarian players to join the heritage-qualified Australians for the Emerging Nations Rugby League World Championship, which will be played in Sydney during October.
“The Hungary Rugby League Federation is also now putting in place plans to capitalise on recent increased interest by developing a fully-fledged domestic competition.”
Interestingly, recent success which has seen rugby league begin to blossom under the Magyars banner comes as the result of a chance encounter in late 2015.
Michael Hay began working with the Hungarian Rugby League Federation after finishing his playing career in France, and having met a Hungarian while there he moved to her home country to get married. Since then, coaching the Magyar Bulls national team, Michael has improved rugby league knowledge and skills in domestic players.
Around the same time, Stephen Nemeth (a Hungarian citizen born in Australia) contacted the HRLF through Facebook. He had been living in Budapest for five months and they discovered that, while both were playing rugby league in Australia, he and Hay had played against each other.
Nemeth had a background not only in playing rugby league but also running a club in Sydney, Australia. With experience in player recruitment, sponsorship and club management, he took on the role of Hungarian Rugby League director in Australia. He recruited experienced coach Jonathan Wilson, also based in Sydney, who is now assisting Hay with coaching Hungary’s national team.