- NRL documentary highlights Ukraine under-14 side
- Cleary sent a message of support with the film crew
- Made a huge pledge to the young players to inspire them
Penrith Panthers superstar Nathan Cleary has revealed his Ukrainian ancestry and sent a touching message of support to young players in the war-torn nation.
In a huge show of support, the New South Wales and Australian halfback inspired the Kyiv Rhinos under-14 players by pledging to one day play for Ukraine on the representative stage.
A Channel 9 documentary crew has travelled to Ukraine to speak to the members of the Rhinos, who train under the constant spectre of the threat of violence from neighbouring Russia, for the documentary Forged in Fire.
Coach Yevhen Zubritskiy barks out instructions to his players and does not speak English, but through a translator said that training the aspiring young players is ‘my life’.
Coach Zubritskiy reveals a Maroons State of Origin jersey under his winter clothes and says he is an honourary Queenslander because ‘they never give up’.
‘Since the state allowed us to have this program, I have been part of it because it is important for these children,’ he said.
‘This is not merely a distraction, they live for this sport.’
President of the Ukrainian Rugby League Federation Artur Martyrosia with Cleary and a Ukraine jersey
Coach Yevhen Zubritskiy and the Kyiv Rhinos under-14s players at a training session
Ukrainian league is led by former player turned soldier Artur Martyrosian.
The president of the Ukrainian Rugby League Federation revealed that there were several NRL players with Ukrainian blood.
‘Players like Nathan Cleary and Hudson Young,’ he said.
And the documentary crew came prepared with a video message from the three-time NRL champion halfback for the young Kyiv players.
‘Hey guys, just wanted to send through a quick message of support,’ he said.
‘I am very proud of my Ukranian heritage and often ask my nan questions about it.
‘I know it has been a really tough time recently over there recently, but it is really cool to see the game continues to grow.
‘I’ve always been a massive advocate and supporter of that. I will help out where I can.’
Cleary will be a long-time Panthers, NSW and Australian stalwart but hopes to one day represent Ukraine in a representative match
Ukrainian soldiers walk through the destroyed city of Avdiivka in Ukraine on December 7
What came next stunned the players, as Cleary pledged to try and one day play for his ancestral nation.
‘Also I hope to one day pull on that Ukrainian jersey for a game,’ he said.
‘But until then, keep up the hard work, it is awesome to see and I will continue my support from over here.’
It was a huge gesture from the best player in the world that clearly moved the young players constantly living in fear of another air strike or for ground forces to rumble into the capital city.
Martyrosian was full of gratitude for the Panthers champion for delivering a message to his biggest fans on the other side of the world.
‘In a big sense. From soul to soul, heart to heart, mind to mind,’ he said.
The documentary Forged in Fire goes to air at 9pm on Nine this Sunday 10 December
Post source: Daily mail