Robert Tuliatu could represent Greece at a rugby league World Cup.
That’s the aim for the 22-year-old former Cessnock Goannas forward.
He’s in the midst of qualification for the 2021 tournament, which will be held in England, and is currently playing a series of Test matches in Sydney, featuring a semi-final against Niue at Cabramatta on Wednesday.
The opportunity came after Tuliatu, whose mother’s parents were born in Crete, had an unexpected meeting with Greek manager Terry Liberopoulos when representing Newcastle in the under-23 NSW Country Championship final at St John Oval last year.
“I didn’t find out about [potentially representing Greece] until four or five years ago,” Tuliatu told the Newcastle Herald.
“I wanted to get involved but didn’t know how. I searched around for ages and eventually sent an email to assistant coach Jimmy Pizanias, who was coaching in Newcastle at the time.
“Then Terry [Liberopoulos] came out and watched the country championship final and asked if I wanted to play and go on tour.”
In the last 12 months Tuliatu has played several matches for Greece overseas.
It started with games against Serbia and Bulgaria at the end of 2017.
This was followed last month by two European Championship encounters, doubling as World Cup qualifiers. Greece narrowly beat Ukraine 28-26 away in Kharkiv before breezing past Malta 60-4 at home in Athens, including a 31st minute try to Tuliatu.
After topping group C south, Greece advance to meet Norway most likely in Serbia early next year.
“The winner of that goes through to a pool of six and four of those teams go to the World Cup,” Tuliatu said. “Hopefully we can make it.”
Meanwhile, based at Belmore under the coaching of Steve Georgallis, the Greeks beat Vanuatu 38-0 on Sunday after going down 20-18 to Hungary last week at the 2018 Emerging Nations World Championship.
“It’s a good chance to play Test matches and help grow the game,” Tuliatu said.
The former All Saints College student is also part of the national University squad traveling to South Africa later this month.
Tuliatu played juniors for Cessnock from under 10s to under 18s before two years at Mounties. He returned to the Goannas in 2016 and 2017. He is now with Asquith.
“Cessnock is still the team I’d rather play for,” he said.