RUGBY League continues to take hold in the Australian Rules Football dominated South Australia, with the Limestone Coast Rugby League competition boasting teams from Mount Gambier and Naracoorte, plus across the Victorian border in Warrnambool and Horsham.
The National Rugby League recently announced a game development officer for the state – Matthew Grubb – based in Mount Gambier.
To push it further in the Limestone Coast, this weekend will see two Blue Lake Knights players head up to Adelaide to participate in the Harmony Cup.
Corey Epiha and Chris Driver will play for an Australian team in the tournament on Sunday which showcases cultural diversity in Rugby League.
It also includes an Indigenous side and teams with Fijian, British Isles and Mediterranean backgrounds.
Grubb said the tournament is a special occasion, which unites rugby players from different cultures across the state to celebrate the game and their heritage.
“The Harmony Cup brings together a heap of different players from their heritage and cultural backgrounds,” he said.
“It allows the players to express themselves and show what they are about.
“It is a great thing NRL SA are doing to promote the game and show the inclusiveness Rugby League really has.”
With two Limestone Coast players on show, Grubb believes it is a great chance to see how Driver and Epiha stack up against some of the state’s top talent.
“It is a good opportunity for the boys just to get outside their comfort zone a little bit,” he said.
“I believe there are players coming from all around the place, so it will be a good chance to test themselves against the city players.”
Australian representative Driver said he is honoured by the call up, but is aware of the challenge ahead of him after limited contact with his team mates.
“I would say I am privileged, but I just love the game,” he said.
“Unfortunately because I am stuck down here and the rest of the team is in Adelaide, I will have to learn quickly and see what the group wants to do.”
Remarkably Driver’s task is much easier than Epiha’s.
After an extensive break from the game, the new inclusion to the Australian team has just returned to the sport recently with the Knights.
Epiha said he hopes his transition back into the game continues to run smoothly during his first representative experience of the sport in almost two decades.
“It has been around 16 years since I have played (before 2019), so I have just jumped back into the game to see how I feel and where I am at,” he said.
“The team has been a good supportive group and I hope to pick my game up like it was back in the day.”
The six-team tournament will run as a round-robin, with each of the sides playing each other over the course of the day.
On the support act is a junior match between the Rams Under 17 side and South’s Under 17 outfit, plus a Maori women’s team versus an All Star women’s team will be showcased.
Breaking up the games will be a cultural performance from various teams.
The cultural performances as well as the finals of the cup and the women’s match will be telecast on NITV, while there will also be a live stream of the game on Facebook.
The tournament takes place at Mitchell Park Oval.