Ex-Warrington forward Billy Magoulias hasn’t given up on NRL return
A year ago, Billy Magoulias was limbering up to make his Super League debut for Warrington and Wakefield.
A whirlwind 12 months has followed, starting with him returning Down Under for family reasons, helping his new team to a Grand Final and then completing the unlikely feat of representing Greece at a Rugby League World Cup.
For now, his career is likely to be defined by two chip kick plays – a quite handy signature move for a stocky forward to have in his armoury.
His most famous, for Newtown Jets in their 2019 NRL State Championship victory, saw him chip over the top for Jackson Ferris to score the winning try against Burleigh Bears barely seconds from the end.
While his replica of it for Greece against France in Doncaster back in October mattered little to the outcome of the game, it will no doubt have been just as special for a man proudly representing his heritage.
No prizes for guessing who set up the best try of #FRAGRE.
That play seemed awfully familiar… #RLWC2021 #WeAre8972 pic.twitter.com/EdGK7K49mZ
— Newtown Jets (@newtownrlfc) October 17, 2022
Not so Super League
Billy Magoulias made just eight appearances for Warrington after arriving as a late signing to boost Daryl Powell’s forward pack in what turned out to be a turbulent first year in the job for the former Castleford coach.
In his first two games, Magoulias saw his side dumped out of the Challenge Cup at home by Wakefield and then mauled away by Hull KR in a game which they arrived late for.
He would at least taste three victories during his brief spell, but the 40-4 home defeat to Leeds at the beginning of June proved to be his last outing and it’s unlikely he’ll ever make a return to Super League.
Magoulias said: “I signed a one-year deal with Warrington and after a while, my missus got pregnant so the whole living in England thing wasn’t working for me and I just had to be realistic about that. Obviously you’ve got to do what makes your family happy because that’s why I do it. We ended up going back to Australia, because I wanted to raise my kid around family. That was a major reason as to why I left.
“With Warrington, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be there the year after and I didn’t even look at signing for another (Super League) club.
“You never say never, but realistically it’s probably not for me. It’s different for different people. Me and my partner are quite close to family, so for us it’s (moving to UK) a big issue.”
Going back to Newtown Jets
On returning to Australia, Billy Magoulias signed with Newtown Jets, helping them finishing top of the New South Wales Cup table, before they were beaten by Canterbury Bulldogs in the play-off preliminary final.
Although he had hoped to earn an NRL deal for 2023, Magoulias has remained with the Jets, captaining them to three wins in four playing alongside fellow World Cup stars Josh Mansour, Kayal Iro and Kyle Pickering.
Newtown Jets are a feeder club for Cronulla Sharks, for whom Magoulias has made 17 NRL appearances to date. It helped put him on the map to represent his Greek heritage, with both his mother and father’s parents being from the European country.
He said: “I was playing at Cronulla and Terry’s a Cronulla fan so he does a bit of homework on who’s Greek.
“I didn’t think there was an opportunity to play and get to this level. It’s been a pretty cool ride, and we’ve all got a role to play in the future to help it get better. The coaches and admin staff won’t be there forever so it will probably come back to people within the squad. It’s important for myself, Lachlan Ilias and those of us who play in Australia at a decent level to bring people with us and get better.
“It’s crazy. They didn’t really expect me to play rugby league, let alone represent Greece playing rugby league.
“We want to be in every World Cup, we want to be in those top 16 nations. We want to get to the point where at the moment we’re happy to be there, and that attitude changes pretty quickly when you’re in camp. We get put together quite quickly, but we want to get better every year and get more players coming through.
“We have to try and bridge the gap and bring everyone together.”
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Greece winger who could make it big
One man who Billy Magoulias will be able to share some experience with is Greece history maker Siteni Taukamo.
Taukamo turned 18 just weeks before the World Cup, which made him eligible to take part and he went on to score their historic first ever try at a World Cup.
Appearing in all three group games, he scored a try against England only to be forced off injured in the second half of the 94-4 defeat to the host nation.
The winger had been flagged up as someone with potential when his older brother Tyrone was part of the Greece squad in 2018.
Magoulias added: “It’s unreal. He’s 18 and they’ve got him in the Cronulla set up, so that’s something I’m quite familiar with. He just needs to keep working hard, he can’t get too excited about himself and start loving himself. He’s obviously talented for them to pick him up at 18 years old.
“He just needs to work hard and not let the noise get to his head. I’m sure if he does that consistently, he’ll play first grade and then it’s up to him there.
“He’s going to get noticed now because of the World Cup. He gets the feeling of what an NRL game looks like. There may be games where it’s not to NRL standard, so for him it’s a great experience. I hope he keeps his head down.
“The thing with young players is people like yourself tell them how good they are and then they get ahead of themselves! It’s just natural human instincts. I just hope he works hard and he stays grounded.”
Billy Magoulias will likely be there or thereabouts whenever Taukamo next pulls on the Greece jersey, that’s if they can keep him away from the clutches of those closer to home.
At the age of just 26, he has plenty of seasons still in the tank – but being part of the Greece coaching set-up is already on his radar.
Speaking to Love Rugby League at the World Cup, he added: “I try and learn off Steve (Georgalis) as a coach, because that might be something I want to do down the track. I think you want a Greek coaching team in the future, that’s actually one of my goals in 15-20 years time when Steve’s had enough! I’ll try and learn as much as I can.
“It was just a matter of going home and getting back around family and trying to get myself back in the NRL system. That’s my goal. I’ve still got a good six or seven years in front of me and I’m confident if I work hard, I can still make it.”
READ NEXT: Greece find out what they need to do to repeat World Cup history