Cronulla forward Billy Magoulias wants to play longer minutes for the Sharks as he seeks to inspire other players of Greek heritage to aim for an NRL career.
Magoulias, who will make his eighth NRL appearance for Cronulla against Parramatta on Saturday, is following in the footsteps of George Peponis, Steve Georgallis, Braith Anasta, Jim Serdaris and John Skandalis as one of the few Greeks to play at the elite level.
Sharks coach John Morris has preferred Magoulias over star prop Andrew Fifita but he received just 11 minutes in the 32-18 opening round defeat of St George Illawarra and 17 minutes in last weekend’s 12-10 loss to Canberra.
“My role is to come on and play lock but it just depends on how the game is going,” Magoulias said.
“Last week I got on with about 20 minutes to go and just tried to do my best and tried to make an impact on the game. It was 12-6 so I wanted to try and help pin a try back, which we did but we missed the goal so it was a real close game.
“I’m looking to try and build my minutes so I can have more of an influence on the game.”
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The 24-year-old Mascot junior is a ball-playing lock and he believes the role is set to become more important under the new rules in the NRL, with South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett using Benji Marshall in a similar manner.
“I feel like the role of a ball-playing lock will start coming back into the game and the teams that have that will be successful,” Magoulias said.
“Look at Victor Radley at the Roosters or Cameron Murray at Souths, the game is really quick now and the guys that can sniff opportunities are probably the ones who are going to make more of an impact.
“Cam McInnes is obviously coming here [to Cronulla] next year to play lock so I guess that he is another example.”
As the only Greek player in the NRL, Magoulias has taken on a leadership role with the Greece team who qualified for the end-of-season World Cup in England.
He hopes that more Greeks will play or follow the game after seeing him in the NRL or watching Greece’s involvement in the World Cup, under Georgallis.
“John Skandalis played, and Braith Anasta and Jim Serdaris, so there have been a few over the years but at the moment I am the only Greek player in the NRL,” Magoulias said.
“I guess with me being the only NRL player in the squad I have a bit of responsibility and a leadership role. The other guys obviously look up to you and try to get some inspiration so I talk to them and try to make an effort.”
Magoulias qualifies for Greece through Greek-born grandparents and Georgallis approached him to play at the 2017 Emerging Nations tournament in Sydney ahead of World Cup qualifying campaign.
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South Sydney rookies Peter Mamouzelos and Lachlan Ilias are other members of the Greece World Cup squad tipped for futures in the NRL.
“There are other guys playing in the Ron Massey Cup and comps like that,” Magoulias said. “We just keep in contact and organise dinners to stay in contact while we are not playing together.”
Ahead of the 2019 World Cup qualifying matches against Scotland in London and Serbia in Belgrade, the team spent time in Greece and Magoulias said the game was developing there.
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“We knuckled down to make the World Cup, which is a big step for Greece, and we went there with Steve [Georgallis],” Magoulias said.
“The game is quite raw over there and we did a lot of development work and coaching sessions.
“That is why it’s important for me, playing NRL, to try and drive that through and give them inspiration because when they are watching the NRL they can see that there is a Greek player.
“There are only 16 teams in the World Cup and we are probably going to be ranked down the bottom but we will obviously try to compete and get into the play-off stage. If we can do that it will be big for the game in Greece.”
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