HE has played with and against some of rugby league’s elite, but come Saturday afternoon Harry Siejka believes it is his brother Liam who could be the key for Poland as it looks for Emerging Nations World Championship glory.
Bathurst native Harry Siejka, who boasts both NRL and English Super League experience, will line up at halfback in Saturday’s cup final at St Mary’s Leagues Stadium, while younger brother Liam starts at lock.
Despite heading into the championship having played just one tournament in the past four years and no regular football since 2012, Liam Siejka has been a standout for Poland.
After Poland thumped Japan 62-6 in its tournament opener, Liam Siejka was one of his side’s best as it downed Japan 58-6 to top its pool.
He again produced an impressive 80-minute performance in Wednesday’s 44-4 win over Vanuatu.
Harry Siejka admits he been surprised by his brother’s form.
“He’s been killing it, he’s actually been our best player our last two games I think. He hadn’t played for awhile so I was a bit unsure as to how he’d go, I think that last time I watched him play he was 16 and after that he had his two knees done,” he said.
“I didn’t know how he’d come back, but the way he’s come back – he’s been one of our better players, I’m really happy for him.
“His last permanent year would have been 2012, so it’s been six years since he last played a full season. He played one tournament in the nines for Poland, but that was 2014 and that would have been his last proper game.”
With two years separating the siblings, their only previous football together was the nines tournament Harry Siejka mentioned. But now the Bathurst brothers are both in good touch and steering Poland towards glory in its Emerging Nations World Championship debut.
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“We never really played together before, so it’s good to get that chance, it’s good having him around,” Harry Siejka said.
“He’s going really good because there’s a lot of blokes there who have played Q-Cup and a lot of football. He’s not played for six years but he’s come out and is giving it to those sort of blokes, he has really surprised me how good he’s gone.
“He’s really ripping in, getting into it, I'm stoked for him. I think he’s the better Siejka at the moment.”
On Wednesday night in the semi-final against Vanuatu, Poland faced its toughest challenge yet.
But while their rivals were more physical and experienced than either Hong Kong or Japan, Poland absorbed the early pressure and went on with the job.
Harry Siejka played role in setting up his team’s opening try in the sixth minute, combining with Ethan Niszczcot to put Alex Kowalski into space.
By half-time it was 22-0 and while Vanuatu returned to the field with renewed vigour and were rewarded with a try, Poland responded.
Harry Siejka booted two conversions and scored a try off the back of a nice show and go as Poland cruised to victory.
“We didn’t have hard games in our first two which made it easy, but the last one against Vanuatu, they were pretty good so it was nice to beat them,” the playmaker said.
“I think they had better footy heads, they had a couple of boys who had played at a high standard – Q-Cup and NSW Cup – so that helped them.
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“But I think we have good a pretty good team. They were pretty tough that first five-10 minutes, they ripped in, but after that we took over and it was all us from there.”
Now Poland will meet Phillipines in Saturday’s decider, the Tamaraws having downed Turkey 29-16 in their semi-final.
Harry Siejka knows beating them will be tough, but he hopes a good crowd of supporters turn out to cheer Poland on.
“That will be another tough game, they’ve been in the qualifiers for the World Cup for awhile and it will be a good test of where we are at,” he said.
“There are teams that bring a fair few [supporters] with them, but the weather hasn’t helped people coming out, it’s been pissing rain every game we’ve played. But hopefully on Saturday the rain stays away for the final and we get a good turn out.”
Kick-off in the cup is at 3.55pm at St Mary’s.