Almanac Rugby League – European Rugby League Under 19 Championship: Update and Wrap Up

Day two of the Championship was played last Wednesday in conditions similar to the Sunday but with a welcomed small breeze. I revisited the nearby riverside setting and bumped into fellow Rugby League types I met on Sunday. On Tuesday whilst on a day tour to the country’s north  I also met relatives of the Quebyan ACT based Serbian Coach … of which lives 10 mins away from me in Brisbane! Crowd a bit smaller, but it is midweek so many locals back at work.


The Serbs and Ukraine were first to play.  Bit more of a contest for both teams though the experience of the tbe Australian players in the Serbian squad was the difference. Ukraine attack very one out or adventurous! Serbia skipped away to a solid lead before the plucky Ukes hit back with some sneaky tries, including one by their fullback that was as good as you would see anywhere. Chip kick, chase, regather and out-sprint defence to score under the posts. Along with the #7 this fullback were Ukraine’s best, but they could not do enough to get them up. Serbs win by 20.  Post game I sought out the young Ukraine fullback and through the team interpreter passed on my praise for his efforts and also gave him an Australian RL polo shirt I had with me. An English lower division team have allegedly shown interest in having him in their junior squad. Be a great learning experience for him if it happens.


Wales v England was next and unfortunately the Welsh were a pale imitation of the team that wiped the Ukraine a few days earlier. England continued on from the form they showed v Serbia and put 40 on the young Dragons. I had traveled with the Welsh squad on the flight from Munich to Belgrade and chatted with players and management wishing them well. Ran into the players again when sightseeing.


Game three and the Italians surprisingly held their own for most of the game v Ireland who most thought would be runaway winners. Both squads were low on league experience but showed great potential for the code in their respective countries. To my knowledge the game in Italy is centered in only a few areas and attracting kids not in the eyes of class biased Rugby Union officials.  Very much a grinding game, the Irish skipped away in the end to the joy of their supporters. Spoke with a few of them and they loved the fact their boys were donning the emerald green to represent their homeland or heritage.


Final game saw a fired up Scotland belt out their anthem without any musical assistance before belting a few French frogs in the opening exchanges. The booming voices of passionate supporters urging them to get stuck in rang out around the ground. The French eventually found their rhythm and put a few unanswered tries on the board. Tbe Scots posting one of their own just before halftime. The second half descended into a niggling affair with flair ups of push and shove regularly interrupting the flow of the game. France ticked the scoreboard a bit more for a 30 point win…..then the obligatory end of game push and shove ended proceedings before hand shakes all round.


So to the finals for the Saturday which I unfortunately could not stick around for as I had to keep moving in my own travels.


In the battle for 7th spot the Italians overwhelmed the Ukraine to get one win for the tournament, but  the Ukraine showed promise against  Serbia and if development occurs will improve.


The 5th spot challenge saw the locals Serbia upset the Irish providing national pride for their hard working officials and volunteers.


Third place was another Celtic battle as the Welsh and Scots did battle. The Scots fire extinguished by a refreshed Wales who were obviously better than their previous outing.


The final was England v France.  France’s preparations were disrupted as a few players were called up late to assist the injury hit Super League club Catalan Dragons  From reading game reports, it was cracking match with the French just keeping their nose in front all through the game till the very end. They are crowned champions after a 26 – 24 win.


My Final Thoughts

If the decision makers in charge of our international agenda are fair dinkum they will get behind this tournament and build upon the success had here in Belgrade. A must is to get the game to school kids 10 years old or younger. Serbia are already exploring their options here but it is tough going. Italy, Ireland and Ukraine must follow suit.


Investment in a similar competition for the Pacific, Americas, Asia is needed.  Give that kid from the Cook Islands,  Canada or Hong Kong a chance to wear their national colours and they’ll be trailblazers for a generation.


Have the Australian Rugby League Kangaroos team watch these kids belt out their respective national anthem.  A highlight of the tournament for me was hearing players passion as they sang at the top of their voices. A contrast to mumble and foot shuffle we get from our national team.


For our game to grow internationally it needs administrators with foresight, vision and a big picture attitude.


The successful identification and employment of these people is the holy grail for Rugby League.


For Damian’s earlier report on the championships, CLICK HERE:


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A Rugby League enthusiast with a penchant for all things International and the grassroots regional representative scene, Damian Roache has finally started to write those stories he's been meaning to write for many a year....and enjoying the experience immensely !


  1. Ian Hauser says

    Good stuff, Damian, I’ve enjoyed your coverage of the tournament. Given half a chance, the code is indeed alive and well in the most unexpected places. I endorse your thoughts about belting out the anthems. Your ‘mumble and foot shuffle’ line about our local lads is spot on! Safe travels as you move on in Europe!

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