MIKOLAJ Oledzki had them partying on the streets of Gipton, Gildersome, Garforth and Gdansk as Leeds’ Challenge Cup success was felt in two countries.
The Rhinos prop may start speaking a Yorkshire accent but it is not long before his Polish roots come through.
And after following in the footsteps of some sporting legends from his homeland by winning at Wembley, after becoming the first Poland-born rugby player to play at the national stadium, he was quick to share celebrations with relatives in eastern Europe.
Including his grandfather Stefan, who had been tuning in on a laptop, and his uncle Bartek.
Oledzki, who came to the UK as a nine-year-old unable to speak a word of English, said: “They’re just as over the moon as I am. As soon as I rang them I had tears in my eyes, I was just so happy.
“For a kid from Poland coming over to England, this doesn’t seem real. I’m so grateful to be here and have the opportunity to win this cup with this amazing club with great people.
“My granddad somehow managed to work his laptop in Poland an get it on. My uncles and everyone managed to get the game on and I’m sure they were cheering me on all the way through.
“Checking in with them they’re all so proud of me, and I carried them all into that game.
“I represented my friends and family and my heritage – I wanted to leave everything out there to get the win.”
Leeds’ success, sealed by skipper Luke Gale’s drop goal, represents a remarkable turnaround from the side dumped out of the competition by Championship side Bradford 17 months ago.
Oledzki, 22, played on that darkest day which is seen as the low point before the rise back towards the top under boss Richard Agar, whose work behind the scenes carried them to victory.
After seeing Ash Handley’s double and Tom Briscoe’s try plus three Rhyse Martin goals, he added of that 24-22 loss: “What makes this special is how hard we’ve worked and it makes you reflect where we were last year, losing to Bradford.
“It was one of the worst losses I’ve experienced in my career. It was just disappointment because we had a great team already. We just didn’t perform well and were too comfortable.
“Off the field we’ve done a lot of team building stuff to create that atmosphere of hard work, determination and playing for each other.
“And Richard has been huge, absolutely huge. What he’s done off the field with us has been amazing, he’s invested a lot of time in that.
“Building back that strong bond between players and creating that family atmosphere and a willingness to work for each other no matter what.
“I feel like since he’s come in we’ve gelled so much, and even when we’re not playing out best rugby and are a bit scrappy, like we were in some periods, that togetherness and brotherhood pulls us through.”
Oledzki is not the only Leeds player with an emotional attachment to the Challenge Cup.
James Donaldson had waited 15 years to get his hands back on to the trophy after it lit a desire when it visited Whitehaven High School in Cumbria when he was 14-years-old.
Not only did he get his medal after lifting the cup, he even nipped back out to grab some of the streamers that lay on the pitch!
“I couldn’t be prouder,” said the 29-year-old who played in Hull KR’s 50-0 thrashing by the Rhinos five years ago.
“I did it for my family who were all watching at home. They’re doing it tough at the moment, hopefully I put a smile on their face. The fans were there in spirit too.
“There’s more to come from me too, though, I’m only just getting going.”
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