BATHURST brothers Harry and Liam Siejka, and Parkes’ Jamie Szczerbanik are just two wins away from finding glory at the Emerging Nations World Championship after they and their Polish team-mates topped their pool in the tournament.
In its first appearance at the tournament, Poland began with a thumping 62-6 win over Hong Kong then backed that up on Sunday with an equally as impressive 58-6 victory over Japan at Kellyville Ridge.
The Siejkas – Harry at halfback and Liam in the forwards – were among those who impressed against Japan, as was Szczerbanik, a former Parkes Spaceman.
A bustling second-rower who has pulled on the boots for the first time in more than five years, Szczerbanik is enjoying the chance to acknowledge his Polish heritage and play alongside the Siejkas.
“I’m eight years older than Harry, so this is the first time I’ve played with him, he’s in his prime while I’m well past it,” Szczerbanik said.
“It’s great playing with a young fella like him, he’s got a lot of experience and has a really good head on his shoulders. We scored three tries [against Japan] off his kicks, it’s like he’s got the ball on a string, it goes wherever he wants it to go.
“Liam started at lock then switched the the back row. He played the full 80 minutes and was awesome.”
Poland now meet Vanuatu in the Trophy semi-final on Wednesday and Szczerbanik knows they will provide stiff opposition.
“We are going really well. We’ve had three games together, two at the championship and one trial, and we’ve scored something like 170 points for and only had 12 against us,” he said.
“But Vanuatu are going to be tough opposition. They’ve got a bit of Fiji style about them, they don’t mind throwing the ball around, they’ve got a bit of flair and they’re tough buggers as well.
“They are big right across the park, they’re athletic and they are going to ask a lot of questions of our defence.
“We’ve just got to grind it out in that first 20 minutes then try to play some footy after that.”
If Poland wins, it will join either Turkey or Philippines in Saturday’s Trophy final. But no matter what happens, Szczerbanik has enjoyed the experience.
“Before the tournament we all sat down and discussed our heritage … the passion and pride in everyone’s eyes is something I’ll never forget,” he said.
“I’ve not played in five-and-a-half years, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ll be too old when it rolls around again.”