Israeli rugby union brothers join Sydney club Easts

The rugby-mad brothers were warmly welcomed at recent Maccabi NSW Rugby Club pre-season training sessions.

Omer (left) and Maayan Levinson in Sydney. Photo: Shane Desiatnik
Omer (left) and Maayan Levinson in Sydney. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

They’ve only been in Sydney for the first fortnight of a half-year stay to train and play for Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Club, but scrum half for the Tel Aviv Heat and Israel’s national men’s rugby team, 24-year-old Omer Levinson – and his younger brother Maayan, 19 – already feel at home.

The rugby-mad brothers were warmly welcomed at recent Maccabi NSW Rugby Club pre-season training sessions to shake off their jetlag.

And they’ve also begun training with Eastern Suburbs ahead of the first round, in early April, of the Shute Shield – the top-tier men’s rugby competition in NSW, whose matches are broadcast on Stan Sport.

Omer Levinson during a Tel Aviv Heat training session last December.

Omer – who started for the Heat in their narrow 10-point Rugby Europe Super Cup grand final loss to Georgian powerhouse club Black Lion on December 22 and became the Heat’s rugby 7s team captain last August – will play for Easts’ first grade team, while Maayan will aim for a starting spot in their U20 Colts squad.

“We are really happy at the moment about our decision,” Omer told The AJN last week.

“I’d finished the latest season with the Heat and we had some spare time to go abroad, so we looked for somewhere to play rugby and thought why not Australia?

“We’ve met the Maccabi players and lots of Jewish people since we’ve got here and families have invited us for Shabbat dinners, so it’s been really heartwarming.”

Maayan, whose usual position is fly-half, said, “This is my first time living in a different country, so it’s very exciting, and my goal is to get better and get some bigger club experience.”

Omer said he has heard a lot of good things about the Shute Shield.

“Easts have a lot of experienced players – some Aussies who have played Super Rugby and some players from Europe as well – so it will be a good experience just being part of the club and learning about its culture and deep history.

“And if I can get some game time at this level [the Shute Shield] and Maayan in the Colts, it would be amazing for us.

“The rugby in Australia is really quick [compared to European conditions] and the ball is moved around a lot, which is a style of game that we enjoy watching and we’ll enjoy playing.”

Omer and Maayan began playing rugby when they were 13 and nine respectively, for Kibbutz Yizreel Rugby Club in Israel’s north, which won last year’s Israeli men’s club championships, under Omer’s captaincy.

They’re both excited about the head coach of the Heat and Rugby Israel, Kevin Musikanth’s, bold development strategy – announced during his visit to Sydney last September to launch an Australian branch of Friends of Israel Rugby – that aims to establish a rugby academy in Israel and to qualify Israel for the 2031 men’s Rugby World Cup and for the 2032 Olympic Games in rugby 7s.

“We love the support that Israeli rugby and the Heat get from the Aussie Jewish rugby community – it’s brilliant and helps us to grow the game,” Omer said.

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