A distinct Yorkshire accent could be heard delivering instructions to Spain’s rugby league side as they were beaten 42-8 by Ireland in their Pool A World Cup qualifier in Valencia.
The voice belongs to Wakefield man Darren Fisher, who has been involved with the Spanish Rugby League set-up for the last six years.
Spain’s defeat to the Wolfhounds last weekend means that they now must beat Italy on Saturday to stand a chance of qualifying for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
Fisher used to coach in the Wakefield Trinity scholarship programme and has played for both Dewsbury Rams and Batley Bulldogs during a semi-professional rugby league career.
But now he wants to make history with Spain by getting them to their first-ever World Cup.
“It started off in 2013, I was still playing and coaching at the time at Wakefield Trinity in the scholarship,” said Fisher of how he first become involved with the Spanish Federation.
“And I decided to have a stint abroad. It was either going to be Australia or Spain and Spain popped up looking for players and I just made contact.
“And from there that is how I got involved and one thing led to another. There was nothing here when I jumped on board there were just three other board members.
“So I had to set up the domestic league and then off the back of that form the national side with the domestic players that were involved.
“We played against BARLA and that was our first test and then we played Belgium home and away in our first two internationals.”
Spain beat Russia 32-24 last October in the 2018 European Championship to reach the Pool stage of qualifying.
They narrowly lost to Serbia in the three-team group but a stronger points difference was enough to take them to the next stage.
“It would be a fantastic achievement,” said Fisher when asked what it would mean to take Spain to a World Cup.
“I have been involved in this now for a long time and I was asked at one point could I do it.
“The players have all put their hands in their pockets, even the pros are all paying for their own travel and accommodation.
“The backroom staff and the board are doing it and it would just be a fantastic reward. It would be the first step and we are putting a marker down to say that we can compete with the best.”
Fisher is keen to grow rugby league in Spain with homegrown players. As a number of nations rely on heritage players to help them be competitive.
“It is about making about your own history,” he added.
“Whatever we do, we are writing the history books and laying the platform for the next generation to pull on a Spain shirt.
“The grassroots in this country is still very new. We are still working on a lot of projects to get the domestic league and the players up to a standard when they are more involved in high-profile internationals.
“And to the level that they can be competitive in their own right.
“I am playing domestic players in these games and it shows we don’t need a load of pros to come and compete in these games.”