South Africa and Poland rugby league teams will face each other on the Gold Coast in an unlikely inaugural clash between the two countries.
- The match will be played at Southport Tigers Rugby League Club
- It will be live-streamed to reach fans back in South Africa and Poland
- Derek McVey, a former Australian Rugby League player, is coaching the Polish team
The match, called the Warsaw Airlift Cup, is a nod to a shared history between the nations — the World War II operation of the same name.
Representatives from both teams say it will also go a long way to growing the sport back home.
Some of the players live in Australia, while others have travelled from overseas for the match, which will be played at Southport Tigers Rugby League Club.
So why play on the Gold Coast?
South African Rugby League manager Gregory Brant, who lives locally, said both teams decided “what better rugby tour than to the Gold Coast”.
The international match is also being supported by the City of Gold Coast.
It will be live-streamed to reach fans back in South Africa and Poland.
‘Reflect and acknowledge’
Mr Brant said the match meant “a piece of history being remembered on the Gold Coast”.
Shane Wietecki from Poland Rugby League said it was a way to reflect and acknowledge the sacrifices South Africans made to help the Polish resistance during World War II.
“Back in 1944, the underground was cut off by the Nazis, and they [the Polish] were running short on supplies to keep the resistance going,” Mr Wietecki said.
A British-led operation, which included South Africans and Australians, flew supplies to support the resistance.
Growing the game
Mr Brant said the match would help increase awareness and opportunities for rugby league players in South Africa.
“It’s these emerging nations like South Africa and Poland trying to develop more players,” Mr Brant said.
“Hopefully, one day, as we push more, we aim to make the 2025 Rugby League World Cup in France.”
Mr Wietecki said international rugby league had slowed down during the pandemic for emerging nations in the sport.
“Poland Rugby League is slowly starting to wake up after two years,” he said.
“All of this will filter back to the local guys and build on our domestic match next year.”
Derek McVey, a former Australian Rugby League player, is coaching the Polish team.
“It’s very exciting for the players in both countries. They have the opportunity to represent their country,” Mr McVey said
“It gives the locals a chance to see that internationally, they’re being represented, and it gives the locals something to aspire to. It’s pretty important.”