Phil Caplan (RLEF Media Manager)
Following their recent victory over Wales in Wrexham and a drawn home series with Lebanon, there are signs of definitive progress within the sport in Italy.
Respected coach Carlo Napolitano feels that giant strides have been taken with the national side this autumn, especially with the 2013 World Cup qualifiers now on the horizon.
“The win against Wales is right up there beside beating the French in Carcassonne in 1999,” he said. “We have worked hard as a rugby league nation to get games against full members like Wales, so beating them was very satisfying. It was a young Welsh side but a full international and we take great pride in a terrific away win that is a vital step in our continuing education at that level.”
The Azzurri included a number of players from the Italian domestic league who made a favourable impression and others who clearly played their hearts out for their heritage.
“Ray Nasso and Ryan Tramonte were standouts for me,” Napolitano added. “Both live in Sydney and play in the level lower than NSW cup and come from proud Italian families. Their performances encapsulated what pride is taken in the shirt. Ryan played the full game, which isn’t bad for a prop. Crusaders’ Rocky Trimarchi – who clearly enjoyed playing in front of his usual home crowd but for the opposition – and Dom Nasso also had solid games; I’m really proud of all of them.”
He continued, “I think all the players learnt from the experience and will be better for it. Soon FIRL will release their strategic plan and this will be the direction for Rugby League over the next four years both domestically and internationally. I think this step is the tip of the iceberg.”
Another addition to his squad at Wrexham, on the backroom staff, was Wakefield Wildcats Assistant Coach and Challenge Cup winner with Sheffield Paul Broadbent who, it is hoped, will be in situ for the 2011 World Cup qualifiers.
“Paul will be an invaluable addition to the FIRL set up. He assisted me in the Wales game as I asked him to watch certain areas of Wales during the match and his info was extremely valuable in the half time discussion,” Napolitano said. “I will bounce some ideas off him over the next couple of years and will give him an area to work on when we are in camp for the World Cup Qualifiers in 2011.”
“Sponsors are the backbone to any international team but because we have a massive community in Australia who enjoy Rugby League -and are not too bad at playing it – we work hard to seek them from there and they have been great. Mick Pezzano and Reno Santiguida have been sensational and have worked hard to put fundraising nights on. Even the players have put their own levy in. Also, the FIRL committee work hard to gain in-kind sponsorship from the local municipality in Monselice. “
“All this takes a lot of planning. Hopefully with the positive result of beating Wales we can now gain some positive media so as to procure some long term sponsorship for FIRL and the national team.”