Spurring on Nigeria Rugby League
Growing up, Tuoyo Egodo’s dream was to play in the Premier League and, maybe even one day, the African Cup of Nations. As a 13-year-old, the Nigeria rugby league player was part of the famous Tottenham Hotspur Academy, during the same years as the likes of England internationals, Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Harry Winks. Sadly, he was let go at a young age, but that didn’t stop his quest of playing professional sport, as he quickly turned to playing rugby league in his home city, London.
“I was in the Tottenham Hotspur Academy when I was younger, and I got released and things just didn’t work out for me there,” he told The Guardian. “After that, I turned my back on football and thought I’d try something different, so just tried my hand at rugby league. “One of my mates actually persuaded me to. I played a bit at school and I really enjoyed it outside of school. It just built from there, I started at 13 at London Skolars and I just kept playing and never looked back.”
Egodo never game up on that dream of representing his Nigerian heritage in sport, with his parents both coming over to the United Kingdom for better opportunities, and now he finally has the chance to. The newly launched Middle East Africa Rugby League Championship will see Nigeria play against Ghana, Cameroun and Morocco in October this year, spearheaded by former professional player Ade Adebisi.
Adebisi, who also played for London Skolars, gave up his job to start Rugby League in Nigeria and has been noted for his work in the game, despite suffering from Sickle Cell disease. He has signed up Egodo to give the Rugby League Federation a professional boost. “I was shocked when Ade first got in touch,” he added. “To be one of the first founding players is a real honour.
“It’s a massive opportunity to get rugby league started in Nigeria, and improve lives as well. Nigeria is a football mad nation, but people like me can show them that there are other sports that you can play professionally and follow your country. “You learn a lot of things in rugby that is transferrable to life, we’re all looking forward to going out and speaking to people and acting as role models and leaving a legacy for them.
“To get the coverage that it’s getting on television, with YANGA! TV involved, is also a great opportunity for us to attract more people to the sport and hopefully they will see what we can give them.” The 22-year-old has quickly moulded himself into a clinical winger in the game, moving to the London Broncos Academy in the sport’s top tier, the Super League, before enjoying a breakthrough loan-spell with Hemel Stags.
His form in the third tier, with the Stags, saw him picked up by Super League side Castleford Tigers, where he successfully broke into the top of the game, after biding his time at loan spells with Oldham, York City Knights, Newcastle Thunder and Bradford Bulls. Next year, he will link up with London Broncos once again, alongside Nigeria teammate, Sadiq Adebiyi, a player he has known since he first played rugby league. He now feels blessed to be in the professional level. “It’s all really worked out for me,” Egodo said.
“It will be good to go back to London and be with my family again. “Me and Sadiq grew up together and playing against each other when we were 13 and then we joined the London Broncos Academy together. “London is a very diverse city, and there are a lot of Nigerians living here and hopefully we can get them on board with Nigeria Rugby League.
“I wouldn’t have believed, when I was 13, that I would have been playing Rugby League professionally. All these things happen and I’m just grateful that I can play the game professionally and now get the opportunity to represent Nigeria.”
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