7th August 2018
Set to play in the inaugural rugby league Emerging Nations World Championship in Western Sydney in October this year, Vanuatu Rugby League says that their looking forward to demonstrating the skills they’ve developed in recent months.
"I think it's a great concept - this Emerging Nations World Cup gives these countries an opportunity to showcase rugby league and how far we've come in a short period of time so we're really looking for to it,” said head coach Lionel Harbin.
Vanuatu has been drawn to play Greece and Hungary in Pool B among eleven other nations from across the Pacific, Asia and Europe who will be competing in 2018.
"It's going to be a very tough pool but we're really looking forward to it though," said Harbin.
In 2012 Vanuatu made their international debut in a game against Greece, this time Harbin’s team is playing to win.
"We have played Greece in an international. We actually went down to Greece but it was a very close-fought game. We're yet to play Hungary - this will be the first time we play Hungary at the tournament (and) it should be a tough two games."
"I don't know a great deal about them. Like us, they're both really growing the game of rugby league and trying to develop it in their countries," Harbin said.
"I'm assuming Greece will have a large population of Greek players based in Australia that are still eligible to play for them so I think they're going to be very tough. I'm not quite sure about Hungary though."
Harbin revealed the intended make-up the ENWC team, a structure that is predominantly domestic with a few high-profile internationally-based players.
"We have got a few Australian-based players that we're hoping will make themselves eligible to play - one being [former Queensland and Australia representative] Justin O'Neill who's up at the Cowboys," he said.
"We've got James Wood who is our captain, who's played a lot of Intrust Super Cup [in Queensland] and he's very highly respected within our team but I'd say about 75 percent of our team would be domestic players.
"That's what we've really focused on: growing our home talent and growing our competition in Vanuatu. We have a good domestic comp in Port Vila...and we're starting to get a junior league happening and women playing the game as well so we're really focused on developing the game in Vanuatu,” said Harbin.
Harbin expressed his excitement at learning experiences that await his team on the international stage in Australia.
"I think the best way for that is for them to come over here [to Australia] and experience this Emerging Nations World Cup. It's only going to better them as players and I think they deserve their opportunity to come over here and play."