Lebanon head coach Darren Maroon has selected the domestic contingent of players that will be vying for places in the national squad ahead of next month’s two-game World Cup qualifiers in Pretoria, South Africa. Those selected, from five clubs, will now engage in elite Cedars training camps, testing their fitness and skill level.
Wolves RLFC utility Wael Harb, who began playing rugby league in 2006, is again included. “I remember my first-ever tour with our national side, to Serbia in 2007 and the emotions that came with it; how that experience built my passion towards the game and taught me how to defend our try line as if I’m defending my country’s territory,” he said.
“Since then, those emotions grew stronger to turn into a dream, which will be realised if I can be part of the squad taking the Lebanese flag into the World Cup in 2017.”
He joins 13 other aspiring players who will be cut down to four or five who will board the plane to Johannesburg on 19 October to meet up with Maroon and the contingent from Australia ahead of the first game, on 25 October at Bosman Stadium, Brakpan.
Tripoli second row Ali Abou Arab is one of the debutants. He noted, “A year ago I had no idea what ruby league was, but I found myself to be an enthusiast and passionate about the game. I think I’ve improved a lot through hard work. It is a great honour to be part of the Cedars, we are going to work hard together for our goal.”
Another veteran, Immortals RLFC front rower Ray Finan, who won three caps between 2008 and 2010, added: “[The feeling of] frenzy in the dressing room before every game, the stampede coming out of the tunnel, the 30 seconds of our national anthem ‘koulouna lil watan’ before a game…all that on a pitch in Lebanon. Now multiply that by a thousand…that is what it will be like playing for Lebanon at the Rugby League World Cup!”
LEBANON CEDARS: 2015 TRAIN-ON SQUAD (LOCAL PLAYERS ONLY)
Ali Abou Arabi, Michael Elias (Tripoli City RLFC), Mounir Finan, Ray Finan, Robin Hachahe, Rudy Hachache, Ossama Jarouche, Jason Sakr (Immortals RLFC), Ghassan Dandash, Ray Sabat (Jounieh RLFC), Kevin Sassine (Lebanese American University), Toufic El Hage, Mike Tawk, Wael Harb (Wolves FC)