Wallis, Tuoyo named in Nigeria’s 60-man Rugby League squad
Elliot Wallis’ shock inclusion heads the recent Nigeria Rugby League squad. Despite not being born in Nigeria, the 19-year-old winger from Hull, England, qualifies for the country via his recently deceased grandfather, Oloruntoba Alaiyemola. Wallis’ skin complexion adds to the curiosity of the announcement, as the Hull Kingston Rovers player, who plays in the top competition in UK Rugby League, explained his bold decision:
“My granddad was my last link to Africa, in terms of getting involved with something different,” he told The Guardian. “I have some aunties and cousins that I stay in touch with a bit and there’s a lot of stuff happening politically in Nigeria. But when it comes to sport, that’s something that brings the country together and hopefully rugby league can do that.
“When I found out Nigeria was starting a team I got in touch with them straight away. When I tell people about it they always mention the Jamaican bobsleigh team, but I thought it’d be something that would be really good to be a part of. “It’s just starting off but there are some really good athletes that can do well in rugby league.”
Among the other key names in the squad, who will make their international debut in the Middle East Africa Championships early next month, are Australian-born Canterbury Bulldogs winger Jayden Okunbor, who has been named vice-captain. “It is an absolute honour that I will forever be proud of,” Okunbor said. “Growing up, I never thought Nigeria would ever have a national team and to now have a team and be named a vice captain means so much to me and my family.
“To be a part of what could possibly be the beginning of something amazing also really excited me and I can’t wait to rip in with the boys.” Among the other notable names in the 60-man squad are London Broncos forward Sadiq Adebiyi; Castleford Tigers winger Tuoyo Egodo, who will join Adebiyi at London in 2020; and Leeds Rhinos forward Muizz Mustapha.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be named in the squad and looking forward to playing for my country,” Egodo said. “To represent Nigeria playing rugby league is a dream and I can’t wait to see how this journey goes.”
40 local-based Nigerians have also been included in the squad, with the Federation keen to give players in the country the chance to represent their country and hopefully improve their lives. One of those, Alex Richard of Kano Gazelles, said: “I welcome the opportunity to play for Nigeia. It is a great feeling and I’m up for the challenge I’ve been working hard and training. I definitely will give my all at the MEA Championships. “Rugby league is new around here, but a lot of work has been done by the Nigeria Rugby League Association and it would pay off at the tournament. I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
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