Maccabiah: Five sets of brothers in rugby squad

June 7, 2013 by David Weiner-Maccabi NSW
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Glen Ella, coach of the Australian Maccabiah rugby squad is a member of one of Australian sports’ most famous brother acts…but not even the Wallabies rugby legend, who starred for the green and gold alongside brothers Gary and Mark in the 1980s, can believe what he’s seeing in his Maccabiah rugby squad headingl to Israel to defend their gold medal…FIVE sets of brothers!“It is very strange to have all those sets of brothers,” Ella quipped.

Ezekiel brothers

Ezekiel brothers

“Obviously I can relate, but I was only one set of brothers!

“It’s handy – when we were replaying we pushed each other. Hopefully the brothers will do that and lift the standards required for the tournament.”

Teammate often become so close they declare themselves brothers in arms – but that’s literally the case in our 26-man squad heading to Israel in July, which includes: Ben, Daniel and Nathan Ezekiel; Keith and Dean Friedlander; Jonathan and Anthony Kastelan; Kevin and Shaun Jankelowitz and David and George Davis.

It’s as if the squad is bolstered with doubles in each position: the Kastelans, Davis and Jankelowitz brothers are all mainly front row forwards; the Friedlanders are both loose forwards and the Ezekiels are all backs.

Those challenging for the rugby gold, look out!

Jankelowitz brothers

Jankelowitz brothers

“The brother combos form mini power teams,” Kevin Jankelowitz said.

“For example, each scrum we can draw on experiences since we were little kids, like the times we would be wrestling on the couch trying to kill each other. We know how the other moves and how to combine our strengths to greater synergies. That’s probably our favourite part of the game.

“You can see the same type of thing with the Friedlander boys when they put on a big hit or go into a breakdown.

“That kind of team work takes a lifetime to build. We are fortunate enough to have five of these mini teams within our team and complementing that is 15 other great guys!”

Captain Keith Friedlander, on his second Maccabiah, says the most special thing about the green and gold squad is they are all like a family, a bond that has been strengthened as a large chunk of the squad has been able to play together in Sydney for Maccabi week-in, week-out for a number of years.

Keith and Dean come from a fanatical sporting and rugby family, and the Games will be a special moment.

Kastelan brothers

Kastelan brothers

“A few years ago, the boys nicknamed my brother “2.0”, the new and improved version of me,” Keith joked.

“There may be a seven-year age gap but it’s never felt like that considering he was already playing with us and mixing it with the big boys at age 15 (Dean is now 20).

“Playing alongside my brother for Australia at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, with our whole family supporting from the stands, will be one of my proudest and most special moments.”

The squad is made up of players from Sydney (22), Brisbane, Perth as well as the Kastelan brothers from Melbourne. The pair, whose rugby journeys have seen them play in China, Japan, Hong Kong and other countries, agree that their relationship spurs eachother on.

Anthony explains: “Sharing the experience with my brother is special because we complement each others’ banter and train together with a common goal in mind.

“Just by having someone to talk every day issues with and act as a ‘sounding board’ makes you alert and provides you with readiness in your approach to work and decision making during the day.”

David brothers with number one fan

David brothers with number one fan

The Davis brothers are a great example of what Maccabi sport brings to Jewish lives. The pair grew up in Ireland, so David says pulling on the green and gold is an opportunity and honour “we take very seriously”.

George added: “Dave and I grew up in Ireland, which means that both being Jewish and being Australian can be fairly lonely (doubly so on the rugby field). The opportunity to represent both my nationality and my religion in Israel is therefore a massive, massive deal.”

But like all brothers, competition is fierce. David won gold in 2009, while George did not. He wants to shut his brother up by defending the medal with him in 2013!

This remarkable journey is about more than brothers. It’s about Macccabi families through the generations as well. Ben, Daniel and Nathan follow in the footsteps of their father David and uncle Moshe, both successful Maccabiah representatives in rugby and cricket.

“Representing Maccabiah is more than just putting on a jersey or playing a sport but representing your religion and heritage, alongside family and friends,” Daniel said.

“Also, our father David played rugby at Maccabiah, so it’s personally special that I can follow in his footsteps.”

The team knows defending the gold will be a huge challenge, but Daniel believes they’re up for it.

Friedlander brothers

Friedlander brothers

“Our captain Keith Friedlander asked us all to buy into something bigger than ourselves,” Daniel said.

“The commitment we all have for one another and the character as a team that we have is what makes this team special.

“It all starts with our captain Keith and develops from there. Hopefully we can defend the gold medal that the guys fought so hard to win four years ago. It’s going to be tough, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy so we are all looking forward to the challenge.”

There was a common thread when these boys were asked about what Maccabiah meant to their families.


As Kevin Jankelowitz put it: “We see Maccabiah as the pinnacle sporting event of our lives, much in the same way that a professional sees the World Cup.

“Sharing it with your best friends is amazing, but sharing it with your brother makes it that much more incredible.

“Being a family event, we then get to make a photo album to sit next to our Bar Mitzvah shots, giving our parents much nachas!”


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