Panthers star halfback Nathan Cleary has thrown his backing behind Ukraine’s bid to qualify for the next Rugby League World Cup in 2025.
Cleary, who has Ukrainian heritage is urging other players to nominate and make themselves available to represent Ukraine.
He is hoping that with others joining, Ukraine will have the best possible chance for the qualifying matches at the end of the season.
Cleary isn’t the only player in the NRL with Ukrainian heritage. Others include teammate Jaeman Salmon, Raiders trio Hudson Young, Owen Hromow and Jonah Anderson and Tigers back-rower Zayn Sluvinsky-Wilkins.
“I would love to see a Ukraine team in the next World Cup. It would be an unbelievable story and a shining light for a country going through such a tough time at the moment,” Cleary said via the NRL website.
“The fact is that at the moment, most people probably don’t even know that Ukraine have a rugby league team, so I want to try and help get that awareness out there.”
Unfortunately, due to the current Russian invasion, Ukraine has dropped to 28th in the IRL World Rankings after not playing a single game last year.
Proud of his heritage, Cleary is trying his hardest to recruit players for the end-of-the-season qualifying matches. He insisted that he will be able to convince his cousins Phoenix and Cruz Death to play as well as his brother Jett.
However, he needs more people to step up and give Ukraine a better chance of qualifying for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
“Anyone that has ties to the Ukraine at the moment is very proud of those, and I think they would do anything to try and help the country. I am a massive advocate for them, to try and help them out,” he continued.
“Both me and my brother are very proud of our Ukrainian heritage and if I wasn’t playing for Australia I would play for Ukraine for sure, so I think that is something my younger brother would definitely consider doing.”
“I would encourage anyone who has Ukrainian heritage to try and represent. If we could build that up, it would be a bit of an escape for people in Ukraine going through tough times.”
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