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Emblazoned with the Maltese Cross, the red & white strip of the Malta national rugby league team are set to embark on Coffs Harbour for this weekend?s Orara Valley Sevens at Coramba?s TOFOG Sportsground and they?re not just here to make up the numbers, says head coach Joe Grima.
?I would love us to play the Barbarians?it would be great for my players to play against some of the best and toughest players to lace on a boot? says Grima
The Barbarians are a team made up of the best ever NRL players to have ever played, including Gordon Tallis, Ryan Girdler, Sean Garlick and Mark Geyer. Leading the team will be Mark 'Spud' Carrol, one of the many good friends of actor Russel Crowe who has underwritten the tournament bearing a $10,000 first prize.
?I?d love to end up with some china in the cabinet?
?I must admit, I?d be disappointed if the Knights did not get to the Sunday finals series? Grima assures.
Yet in being the competitor he is, Grima will also be making sure his young Knights? setup have an enjoyable time in a tournament that has attracted plenty of quality players, Girdler, Geyer & Fittler amongst the shortlist.
?as a boy from Tamworth, bush folk love footy so I?m looking forward to the crowds of people who will attend and take a keen interest in the Sevens event and possibly the Malta Knights?
?as long as we (Malta) have a good time together?with no injuries, we will see some great footy?
Fresh from steering the Parramatta Eels Harold Matthews team to an undefeated premiership in 2004, Joe is assured he?ll gain the best possible results for Malta with the skillful outfit of players which boasts a mixture of experienced and new players in the squad, led by captain and ex Cronulla Sharks? Ben Sammut at five-eighth.
Flexibility in speed and skill throughout a squad is a playing part in an instrumental Sevens squad and Malta is credited with having the services of ex Rabbitohs back-rower Willie Grech.
?Willie captained last years premiership winning Jim Beam Cup team?
?Willie is very skilful and versatile? says Grima.
Malta?s backs boast blistering speed through the likes of Mackay Brothers? Brendan Russel, Parramatta Eels? Simon Micallef, Newcastle Knights? Daniel Spiteri and former Eels? junior Paul Marzella, while continuing from his try scoring displays for Malta in October is Blacktown City?s Matt Zammit.
?Matt Zammit is one of the younger members in the squad and scored two magnificent tries against Fiji A?
?Matt possesses heaps of speed and is built low to the ground? Grima tells.
Malta has been drawn in Group D and will be challenging Guyra, Sydney University and Coffs Harbour before expectantly qualifying for the finals series of the Sevens tournament on day two.
?it?ll be great for the Malta Knights being a new identity in the rugby league world and I?m confident the team will perform well? tells Grima.
?The Malta Knights will show the rugby league community we are versatile playing both 7-a-side as well as 13-a-side?
With Malta hosting a range of new players and combinations, coach Joe Grima is clear on the expectations before Malta makes their Sevens rugby league debut.
?As long as we are professional in our approach and have some fun along the way, we will be successful?
??the teams at the tournament will have quality players amongst their playing roster and to underestimate them would be a mistake?
?It?s great to be part of the Sevens? Grima enthuses.
The Malta Knight?s official website will keep Malta supporters updated with all the scores and all the glory. Fans can also express their support by visiting the forum on the website at www.malteserugbyleague.com
Malta: S Azzopardi, R Borg, P Harris, M Fenech, J Lateo, S Magro, P Marzella, W Grech, S Micallef, B Russell, B Sammut?, D Spiteri, M Zammit