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Knights and Titans will do battle in fourteen dynamic minutes of rugby league action to kick off the 2006 Orara Valley Sevens at Coffs Harbour this weekend, January 28 and 29.
With two international fixtures ultimately kicking off the Orara Valley Axemen Big Week of League on January 26, it will be the Malta Knights and the Gold Coast Titans that kick off the two-day Sevens carnival, underwritten by resident local and Hollywood star Russell Crowe.
History beckoning, the Titans who will make their entry into the NRL competition in 2007 are fielding a squad jam-packed with players from the Gold Coast?s elite academy as well as QLD Cup talent that includes captain and ex Penrith Panthers back rower Matt Pow leading out the Titans for the first time.
Maltese Rugby League will enter the code?s history books for the second time in only three months, as the first up opponents to the newly formed Gold Coast, who are being represented under the ?Titans? banner for the first time. Titans? head coach John Cartwright isn?t denying the excitement leading up to this weekend.
?There is enormous excitement from within the Titans club about this Sevens tournament. I think it?s a close realization from all the people who have worked so hard on making this club a reality of how close we are to 2007? said Cartwright.
Cartwright isn?t expecting miracles in the Titans? first outing.
?It?s very hard to go into a Sevens tournament expecting to win. That?s the appeal of the game, its fast, open and gives all sides a chance?
Opening the tournament against the Malta Knights before taking on Crescent Head and the Australian Maoris, Cartwright is using the budding sevens tournament to test his players who are challenging for roles in the club?s approaching NRL return in 2007.
?It?s basically an opportunity to get some of our good juniors together and see how they perform against more experienced opposition? Cartwright said.
Ten of the fifteen players selected in Malta?s sevens squad were members of a history making rugby league tour to Malta 12 weeks ago, taking on the England Lionhearts, selected from England?s amateur rugby league conference competitions. Malta defeated England 36 to 6.
Newcastle Knights premier league utility Daniel Spiteri was consequently sent off in the third minute of the historic encounter after tensions simmered in the international friendly on a muggy 30-degree plus afternoon.
Evenly, Ashley Klein, the Engage Super League 2005 referee of the year dismissed Spiteri and his opposite number Lionhearts? Brendan Lewis as well as placing a further member of each team in the sin bin.
Spiteri is adamant that his return for Malta at the Orara Valley Sevens will bring a positive bang.
?People insist on bringing up the darkest moment in my footy career. It was very disappointing and won?t happen ever again?
?Is the pope a catholic? There is more fire in me then the sun itself, controlled though, no send offs this time!? Spiteri assures.
Spiteri, who has been granted a release from the Newcastle Knights, is motivated to play to his best at the Orara Valley Sevens, granted there will be scouts from several NRL clubs about.
?Huge incentive, all you have do to is look of likes of Benny (Sammut) and Clewsy (Brad) and you see what playing at the top level does for you, to be earning a huge salary and doing it by playing footy which is something you love would be great? said Spiteri.
Only weeks before the fateful match, Spiteri was the instrumentalist in a last second try that helped Malta to a 24-22 win over Greece in Sydney, dashing sixty metres to bring the pro Maltese crowd into raptures.
?The try itself just proved his evasiveness?
?He was positioned on the left wing and scored on the opposite (right hand side) of the field? Malta coach Joe Grima said.
South Sydney Rabbitohs have named flying winger Luke MacDougall as captain in a line-up selected from throughout the foundation club?s grades, jersey flegg to first grade.
Drawn into the same group as defending champions Lebanon, Fiji A has listed former Tigers NRL star James Langaloa in their 15-man squad.
Malta Knights sevens squad:
N Attard, S Azzopardi, S Borg, B Clews, P Galea, A Grech, W Grech, P Harris, P Marzella, J Micallef, S Micallef, B Russell, B Sammut (C), J Sammut, D Spiteri.
2006 Orara Valley Sevens Tournament
Saturday 28th January (Day One)
9:00am MALTA vs GOLD COAST Titans
10:40am MALTA vs CRESCENT HEAD Roos
11:40am MALTA vs WAIRERE AUSTRALIAN Maoris
The Maltese Rugby League Association, a voluntarily run organisation whose main source of income is the retailing of their popular merchandise range which includes replica jerseys, polo shirts, t-shirts, caps and dvd?s. During the Orara Valley Sevens, supporters have the opportunity to purchase the Malta Knights jersey at a special price of only $75.