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BATTLE OF THE ISLANDS;
Fresh from their 78-0 demolition of the British Defence Forces in their inaugural rugby league match at Melita Stadium last week, the Malta Knights are preparing for a much sterner test. That test will come when they line up to meet Fiji A on October 16 at Melita Stadium in Sydney?s west.
Malta will come into the match, welcoming some newfound talent in former South Sydney Rabbitoh Willie Grech and Parramatta Eels Jersey Flegg star Paul Marzella.
Inaugural captain Dallas Weston, who suffered a bicep injury against the British Defence Forces and has been ruled out of the clash against the Fijians has opened the door for former Cronulla Sharks? Ben Sammut (pictured) who feels extremely privileged at being informed by Malta head coach Joe Grima that he will lead the Knights following a resourceful debut game for Malta.
?Ben was honoured and flattered in accepting the role?, Grima said.
In what is being billed as the ?battle of the islands?, the Fijian community is expected to turn out in mass to support their fellow countrymen, which are set to provide a difficult task for the new minnows of international rugby league, which attracted almost 1200 passionate supporters to their debut game.
And while Malta?s performance against the British was remarkable, head coach Joe Grima understands that Fiji won?t hold back from their entertaining style of football.
?The Fiji A team will be tougher as they play tough footy week, in week out? Grima said.
?They also have some big named players in their squad?
On the other hand, the Knights too have their equal share of brilliance all over the park, as was on display against the British.
?The players that most impressed me last week were Paul Galea and Brad Clews? Grima happily told, after their joint 6 try effort of which Galea scored 5.
Malta Knights centre Rohan Spiteri is unavailable for the Fiji A clash, as he returned to Malta last Thursday to continue his duties for the Malta rugby union team in their world cup qualifying aspirations.
Spiteri, 23 crossed for 2 of the Knights tries against the British Defence Forces and enjoyed the experience immensely as well as now laying claim to being Malta?s first dual international.
?I?m so proud?I had a great time? Spiteri told the MRLA.
MALTA AND FIJI A NAME STARTING LINEUPS;
Malta Knights head coach Joe Grima has named his 19 man line-up for the Malta Knights next encounter, in which they meet Fiji A at Melita Stadium on October 16, with former Sharks NRL star Ben Sammut taking the reigns as captain of Malta.
Inaugural captain Dallas Weston who suffered a bicep injury against the British Defence Forces was ruled out of the Fiji A clash while former Nth Queensland Cowboys star John Buttigieg was unavailable for selection. Malta is also without Sydney Bulls forward Shane Shackelton who has been selected in the NSW Residents team to tour New Zealand in mid October.
The situation has seen former South Sydney Rabbitoh? Willie Grech come into the 2nd Row and Parramatta Eels star of the future Paul Marzella drafted on to the wing after a re-shuffle in the centres to cover the loss of Rohan Spiteri who flew out last week for rugby union commitments with the Malta national team.
Johnny MICALLEF Simon MICALLEF Paul GALEA Anthony XUEREB Paul MARZELLA Ben SAMMUT ? Ryan BORG Stephen VINCENTI Adam DEMANUELE Shane MAGRO Willie GRECH Steven AZZOPARDI Brad CLEWS
Danny MAMO Damien ATTARD David DUX Kevin VASSALLO Matt ZAMMIT Steven GALEA
Fiji A coach David Simpson has also named a 19 man squad boasting a cluster of players of the caliber of Jim Beam Cup through to Premier League status.
Samuela RAKABU Frank WAQA Esale VUTE Pee Wee MOKE Samu WARA Wes NAIQAMA ? Joe DELANA
Tabua CAKACAKA James STORER Save SAKURU Peceli WAWAVANUA Namila DAVUI Puna RAUSABLE
Interchange Juita SUKA Joe SAKURU Viliamu BAILOMALOMA Suli KOROI Pete DELAIVUNA Saloesi TEMO
DREAMS DO COME TRUE;
April 2004 and Ben Sammut hung up his phone wondering which of his current or ex team-mates had just tried to play a prank on the former NRL player with the Cronulla Sharks which also went on to play in the UK for Hull and Gateshead.
Malta Knights head coach Joe Grima called up Sammut after hearing the former Shark was these days going round in the Illawarra Cup as the skipper of University. Sammut made nothing of the call until Grima asked for a simple 5 minutes of his time. ?I thought it had to be one of the Sharks or Uni boys geeing me up? Sammut says.
?then he simply asked for five minutes of my time. I gave him five minutes but I still didn?t believe him?
While Ben knew other nations like Lebanon, Greece & Italy had taken to the game of rugby league, the 29 year old didn?t think Malta had that much of a representation in rugby league aside from the regular 2 or 3 big names.
?I knew of Mario Fenech, Michael Vella and the Galea?s, but to know there were enough players to put forward such a strong Maltese team was a real surprise?
Only last year, Ben visited Malta and more so the tiny village of Mgarr where his father was born and would take any opportunity he gets to return to the unspoiled island.
?Just one visit so far but its beautiful?. its absolute paradise? Sammut remembers.
The rest is history.
Sammut made his debut for Malta at five-eighth in their inaugural rugby league match on September 25 and followed in the path set by captain Dallas Weston by leading their young troops to a crushing 78-0 victory. Weston suffered a bicep injury throughout the clash with the British Defence Forces.
?To start with, it was an honour to be selected. And being out there for your father is the greatest honour...? explains Sammut
Hence another phone call from Joe Grima 6 months after the initial contact, to offer Sammut the role of captaining Malta in their upcoming clash against Fiji A at Melita Stadium in Sydney?s west on October 16.
?its unreal?I hope to show direction out there along with Ryan (Borg) as the halves do in rugby league?
Having played over 200 grade games for the Cronulla Sharks between 1993 and 1998 before moving on to Hull and Gateshead for the following two seasons, Ben admits playing for Malta has further renewed his interest for the game.
?its fantastic, being out there in the Maltese colours with players that you share a common bond with? said Sammut
Ben still resides in the Sutherland shire of Sydney where he has recently started his own personal training business, aptly named Oxygen Lifestyle and Fitness Management. Regards, Anthony Micallef Maltese Rugby League Association Media E- [email protected] W- www.malteserugbyleague.com