Expansion: The Knight Of Rhodes

Ever heard the story of the woman who showed up to train with an all male Rugby Team out of shear curiosity? Not likely, this the unique story of Maria Nikolopoulou, the dance teacher and choreographer who did just that.

4 months ago Maria made the decision to approach the Rhodes Knights to enquire about the possibility of joining, knowing only that Rhodes had a Rugby League team and nothing more, but hungry to learn more about the captivating sport.

Fast forward to 2 months later and having joined in full contact training sessions, bonded with her teammates and become an official Knight, Maria found herself Belgrade bound as Rhodes took on Red Star in the Balkan Super League, recalling the occasion Maria said "The first time that I saw a rugby league game live was almost 2 months ago in Serbia. The game was between Red Star and the Rhodes Knights  rugby league team. I was already a member of the team but I choose to speak of this experience because this was the first time that I understand what this sport actually is. "

" It's an unbelievable, amazing experience to see your team wear the official outfit and prepare for the game. They encourage each other! When we shouted the slogan of the team I remember, that I feel like I want to cry from the emotion of this moment. Winston Churchill said that Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen. And now I completely understand that."

" A week later I played my first tournament Saturday, the 26th of May was the first time I participated in an official rugby tournament. It was a great experience and a great honour to play with Patras rugby team. There was an amazing spirit of team work. At first I was feeling really stressed but when the match finally started I forgot everything. I realized that I was ready and was full of excitement. I enjoyed myself, I met new people and made memories on the field."
A natural sense of apprehension was in the air as Maria made her way to her first session, but that didn't stop her
" I've heard a lot about rugby and I was interested in learning as much as I could. I knew Rhodes Knights is a rugby team in Rhodes and I decided to go and see whether I can become a member or not. At first the idea of being the only girl stopped me from trying out, but my desire to learn more about rugby overcame my first reservation. I thought that in order not to be the only girl in the team there must be at least one and the rest of the girls will follow."

The Women's game is growing at such a fast pace, so it's only natural for Maria to believe that the end goal is a fully fledged women's competition stating
"In my opinion it is necessary and crucial for young girls to engage in sport. In general I believe  that all people regardless of their age and sex should try out team sports not only to keep their body and mind healthy but also because team sports  help balance their psychology and general social behaviour. Now especially in rugby league in Greece I would like to make an official national women's rugby league team! This is the goal! For the beginning I would like to see more girls start to do this sport and be a part of our rugby community."

Maria's story is one of overcoming natural limitations and pushing the boundaries, she certainly hopes her story inspires others to take the leap and try Rugby League  "I am sure that my story will inspire other people do you know why? Because I am a knight and knights inspire others.. knights have the power in their brain in their bodies and in their souls! My coach Michael Chatziioannou sent me a message before my first game and he called me knight He told me that knights have a big soul and then I was sure that I can do anything I want if I truly want it."

"That's why I believe that my story will inspire other people because I really want it to! I will give a little from the power that my soul has to change this world, Rugby is a sport ! A fantastic sport! And sports are for everyone ! Their is no male and female sports. I would like to close with this! I love rugby because it's a game that teaches you real life lessons " if life tackles you it's ok touch the ground play the ball and continue".  One more rugby lesson that I like is "The ball is playing until the last minute, so is life! Only if you give up, you are sure to lose!"


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