WHETHER it was the welcoming nature of the Coffs Harbour locals or that of the helpful committee of the Orara Valley Axemen Rugby League Club. Hollywood celebrity Russell Crowe?s pose in the ?Malta? rugby league jersey prior to their quarter final clash against the Sydney Metro Aboriginal All-stars, or the unanticipated fourth placing in their inaugural Sevens tournament, the fledgling governing body for Maltese Rugby League will return to the Coramba Sportsground for the 2006 Orara Valley Sevens tournament with only one main concern.One year stronger, on the back of a successful groundbreaking tour to the Maltese Islands where locals took in the novelty of a sport previously unknown to the Mediterranean island nation and with the addition of a number of fresh and upcoming faces to their impressive playing roster; the Malta Knights return to Orara Valley primed to put up an admirable challenge for the $10,000 first prize.Maltese Rugby League Association (MRLA) chairman Michael Borg is adamant the snowball effect of success in the MRLA?s historic first years within Australia is a major lever in controlling the future of rugby league on the Maltese islands.?It is the major factor??Due to mass migration from the 1950's onwards, there are thousands of Maltese or people with Maltese descent living in Australia, thus as a result practically every Maltese has a relative living in Australia and has strong connections with Australia? explains Borg.?? the success of the Australian-based MRLA made up of Maltese-Australians passionate about the game of Rugby League and keen to promote the game in Malta itself is vital to the establishment of Rugby League in Malta?Last year, the Malta Knights commenced their ?sevens? proceedings by gaining maximum points on the first day, before knocking out one of the tournament favourites, Fiji.Parramatta Eels SG Ball head coach and Malta Knights mentor Joe Grima describes the win as a major boost in belief for the Maltese team.?It was important. All the talk was about the Fijians and when we (Malta) put our hearts into it, we came out trumps. The Fijians were really disappointed and we used that?MRLA chairman Michael Borg attests it?s not only the players that rate Joe Grima as a passionate and innovative coach and backs the Malta Knights instructor to take them all the way in 2006, which would be a welcome monetary boost to the rugby league body on the Maltese islands itself.?absoloutely!...Joe is one of the most passionate people you will ever come across. He's developed a good rapport with the players and as a result the squad that went to last year's sevens had good camaraderie and simply went to enjoy themselves in a carnival atmosphere that is the Orara Valley Sevens??A non-profit and voluntary organisation such as ours would use the much-needed funds to direct towards development of the game in Malta? Borg confirmed.Malta eventually bowed out of the race for last year?s first prize after a golden point second half try which saw Malta go down 36-32, after Malta led 32-18 a minute into the second half of normal time. Nevertheless, the new boys on the block gained a whole lot of support from their inaugural appearance at the tournament, as well as experience that will see them return to Australia?s richest ?sevens? tournament with their eyes on nothing but the silverware and prize money on up for grabs on the Sunday afternoon, but coach Joe Grima is reserved in his expectations.?the competition is going to be much stronger this year than last, I?m not going into the tournament expecting to qualify for the Sunday(finals) games??We?ve got plenty of speed and enthusiasm in what is a youthful side yet we?re going up there with a lot of supporters. In having some fun, we?re going to display the skills and sportsmanship of the Malta Knights (MRLA)? tells Grima.The Maltese side won?t be led by Grima all weekend however, with Grima handing over the Saturday duties to assistant coach Tony Farr, due to Grima?s commitments with Parramatta Eels.Farr has been on the coaching panel from day one of the MRLA?s venture and recently added to his already sparkling resume, a pioneering tour to Malta where Malta defeated the England Lionhearts 36-6 at the Marsa Stadium in Malta.A well-respected figure within rugby league circles up to the highest level for the past twenty-five years, Farr will guide the young Maltese chargers through their day one pool matches.Equal top point scorer from last year?s tournament, Parramatta Eels' Simon Micallef will return again to represent Malta; as will 2005 Player of the Tournament and ex NRL star, Malta Knights skipper Ben Sammut.While the Eastern Australian state of NSW is well represented with Maltese talent, QLD doesn?t go unnamed with Mackay Brothers? Brendan Russell and Burleigh Bears? Paul Marzella forming part of the backbone in Malta?s back line that boasts an array of youth and speed that will key up with a wise but mobile pack of forwards that includes Wests Magpies premier league forward Pat Galea.Debutants in the red and white kit of the Malta Knights are Nathan Attard and Jarrod Sammut, both products of the Penrith Panthers junior rugby league nursery.Related links:www.malteserugbyleague.comwww.oraravalleyaxemen.com
ENGAGE Super League Champions, Bradford Bulls, jet out on Thursday to begin their final preparations for the Carnegie World Club Challenge game against NRL Champions Wests Tigers on February 3rd.The Bulls will spend a week at the prestigious Club La Santa in Lanzarote where they will be able to spend valuable time outside on firm pitches and will be put through their paces ahead of the WCC at the Galpharm Stadium. The Bulls will take a fully fit squad to the Canaries and Coach Brian Noble is looking forward to being able to plan ahead without recourse to the weather.?The World Club Challenge is a very prestigious game and gets the Super League season off to a very positive start. It is not too often that you get the opportunity to be a World Champion in any sport and we are determined to overcome what will be a tough challenge from West Tigers. Going out to Lanzarote will enable us to plan our training sessions knowing we will be able to up the intensity without the weather disrupting our plans. The squad are looking forward to the trip and to the game with relish.?Tickets for the Carnegie World Club Challenge at the Galpharm Stadium Huddersfield game on February 3rd are available from the Bradford Bulls Ticket Office on 08701 202040 or by logging ontowww.bradfordbulls.co.ukFor further information contact:Stuart Duffy Tel: 01274 762315M 07966 171991
THE Bears feeder club agreement with NRL club Melbourne Storm has given a chance for some of Norths talented young stars to join other young players from around the Eastern states, in an intensive week of training at Storm headquarters down south.Premier League and Kiwi junior rep Reihana Peters has joined Jersey Flegg recruit James Maloney, S.G. Ball?s Liam Foran and Bears head coach Josh White in Melbourne for 5 days of skills, conditioning sessions and sports related forums on leadership and sports science.?It?s very exciting. There are 26 young players here from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, even the Northern Territory! Today [Wednesday] we had a skills session with coaching staff Craig Bellamy & Michael Maguire and former first grade player Steve Kearney? said former Magpies first grader Josh White.Local Junior and SG Ball star Liam Foran said, ?It?s very exciting and a great experience!?The Norths crew fly back to Sydney on Saturday afternoon and ready themselves for what promises to be a huge season for the Bears.PHOTO: Bears under 20s halfback James Maloney and Premier League Coach Josh White at training prior to heading for Melbourne. Photo: Steve LittleThe North Sydney Rugby League Football Club can be contacted on 9466 8860, by e-mail [email protected], or check out the website athttp://www.northsydneybears.com.au.
THE South Sydney Rabbitohs have announced their squad for the Orara Valley Axemen Sevens Tournament being held on January 28-29 being played at Coramba Sportsground.The squad is:Joven ClarkeJames DonlanAdham El-ZbaidiehJoe FalemakaBeau FalloonNathan GilchristWillie GordonRhys HanburyLuke MacDougall (c)Ray MoujalliGermaine PaulsonDean PetersLuke RobertsDavid RymanFetuli TalanoaCoach - Mark EllisonThe Rabbitohs first game will be against Woolgoolga on Saturday, January 28.The Gold Coast Titans will play their first games of Rugby League underneath their new banner at the Orara Valley Axemen Sevens Tournament, joining teams such as defending champions the Lebanese Cedars, Maltese RLFC, Wairere Australian Maori RL, Samoa National, Fiji A Rugby League, Japan, Cook Islands, NZ Maoris, USA Tomahawks, Fiji Bati and the Orara Valley Axemen.The Orara Valley Axemen Sevens Tournament is part of the Orara Valley Axemen Big Week of League, incorporating the Sevens tournament, a Kids to Kangaroos coaching clinic, Men of League golf day and dinner, exhibition sevens matches and senior internationals between Japan and the USA, and Fiji Bati and New Zealand Maori.For more information about the Orara Valley Axemen Sevens Tournament and the Big Week of League click on www.oraravalleyaxemen.com
WESTS Tigers coach Tim Sheens says next month's World Club Challenge match against Bradford in England isn't a must-win game for the club, but it could help prove that last year's premiership was no fluke.The Tigers meet the English Super League champions on February 3 in Huddersfield with only a trial against country outfit Group 4 as their preparation. Sheens says the game is important but that his focus is on the premiers' NRL opener against St George Illawarra on March 10.If the Tigers claim the WCC title, they will achieve a rare treble by also holding the NRL premiership and being the reigning World 7?s champions.Sheens also says captain Scott Prince has given every indication that he wants to stay at the Tigers beyond the 2006 season.
WESTS Tigers must sweat on premiership-winning captain Scott Prince's future until after next month's World Club Challenge against Bradford in England.Prince said today he would not be sitting down with club management until mid-February to discuss terms for an extension of his contract. The Tigers have a busy pre-season kicking off in Gunnedah on January 27th against Country outfit Group 4, who are coached by former Souths and Newcastle prop Matt Parsons.The premiers then fly to England to lock horns with the Bulls in the World Club Challenge a week later.
CRONULLA football manager Greg Pierce will assume the role of acting general manager at the Sharks rugby league club following the sudden death of club great Steve Rogers last week.A decision on a permanent replacement will be made later this month when the board of directors holds its next meeting. The board will also consider options for a memorial to honour the memory of Rogers during the January 24 meeting.Over 1,000 mourners packed the Shire Christian Centre on Saturday to farewell the former Test centre.
LEEDS Rhinos? rising star Lee Smith has become the 11th member of the club?s successful academy to be promoted to the first-team squad after he was awarded the number five jersey for the new season.The 19-year-old Smith, who scored eight tries in just 10 appearances in his first season in 2005, takes over the squad number vacated by Marcus Bai, now at Bradford.The elevation of Smith completes the Rhinos? senior 20-man squad.?I?m very pleased and, with the quality of the squad we?ve got, a bit shocked,? he said. ?As far as I?m concerned, it is only a squad number and nothing changes.?My goal is to play wing or full-back regularly for Leeds? first team this season.?- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
LEEDS Rhinos have decided to brave the snow and frost of an English winter as they finalise their preparations for the start of the second decade of Super League.While the other 10 British clubs are escaping the freezing temperatures for the warmer climes of Europe, the Rhinos will spend four days youth-hostelling in the Lake District.Instead of pounding the beaches of Torremolinos and Lanzarote, Leeds have opted for mountain biking and boating around Coniston.?It?s a change of scenery and there are various activities planned,? said a Rhinos spokesman. ?We didn?t go away last year.?Newly-promoted Castleford on Thursday began the great escape, flying out to Lanzarote where coach Terry Matterson will finalise the club?s preparations for their return to the top flight.The Tigers will enjoy a temperature increase of around 21 degrees on the famous holiday island and that, according to chief executive Richard Wright, will provide ideal training conditions.?Gym work and conditioning are not a problem but conditions in this country at this time of year are far from ideal for skills work,? he said.?In Lanzarote, you can guarantee at least half-decent weather and dry tracks.?It also acts as a useful bonding session so it?s a vital part of every club?s pre-season preparations.?Bradford and Warrington are also going to Lanzarote later this month, while Portugal is the favoured destination for Huddersfield, Wigan and Wakefield.St Helens and Hull are both off to the Spanish mainland while Salford are making a third successive visit to Florida and Harlequins (formerly London Broncos) are going to the south of France for the second year in a row. Super League?s other new boys, Perpignan-based Catalans Dragons, of course, enjoy warmer temperatures throughout the year.After enduring two months of a dismal British winter, Super League players generally welcome the chance to get some warm sun on their backs but the clubs insist it?s a working trip.?It?s definitely no holiday,? said Wright. ?You get through an enormous amount of work. The sessions are intense and you are at it every day.?- - - - -Meanwhile the funeral of former Great Britain international and Doncaster Lakers coach St John Ellis, who passed away following a training session on New Year?s Eve, will take place at York Minster on Tuesday, January 10, at 1.30pm, followed by a private family burial. - - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
HULL have offered a one-year contract extension to influential hooker and captain Richard Swain.Swain?s contract runs out at the end of the new season but the Powergen Challenge Cup winners have already opened talks with the former New Zealand international about extending his stay at the KC Stadium to the end of 2007.The 30-year-old Swain has made a big impact since joining the club from Australian outfit Melbourne Storm in 2004.?Getting Richard on board would be a real bonus for us and hopefully we can tie something up in the near future,? chief executive David Plummer told the Hull Daily Mail.Plummer also revealed the club were close to finalising a new deal with 29-year-old Australian back-row forward Shayne McMenemy, whose current deal runs out at the end of this year.Both Swain and McMenemy will sit out Sunday?s Clive Sullivan Memorial Trophy clash with Hull Kingston Rovers at the KC Stadium but Hull?s Great Britain prop Jamie Thackray will play.Thackray was not due to return to training until Wednesday after his Tri-Nations commitments but came back three weeks early in order to play in his first Humberside derby.Thackray, along with Hull?s two close-season signings Lee Radford and Sid Domic, have been included in coach Jon Kear?s 20-man squad.Front row pair Paul King and Garreth Carvell are sidelined after wrist operations but hope to be fit for the start of the engage Super League season on February 10.Rovers give a debut to former Leeds half-back Scott Murrell and, in the absence of skipper James Webster, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, will be led by another new signing, ex-London Broncos prop Francis Stephenson.The clubs have already sold more than 9,000 tickets for the pre-season friendly. - - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
HARLEQUINS Rugby League have announced the signing of Australian centre Matt Gafa from Canberra Raiders.The 27-year-old Gafa, who has played at Canberra since his professional debut in 1997, is a close friend of Quins captain Mark McLinden, with whom he played his junior rugby league.?Matt is a great addition to the squad,? said coach Tony Rea. ?We have been keen to sign him for quite some time and I have been very impressed with his abilities in the short time that he has been with us.?Mark McLinden spoke very highly about his abilities and we are looking forward to seeing Matt run out at the Twickenham Stoop.?Gafa becomes the eighth new recruit for the former London Broncos club, who kick off the 2006 engage Super League season against St Helens at the Twickenham Stoop on February 11.?There is a real buzz about the place,? said Gafa. ?I have been shown round the ground and the facilities and I have to say I am really impressed, it looks awesome.?- - - - -Quins have also added to their squad Michael Worrincy, who is a product of the London development system but spent last season on loan to Hull. Worrincy, a second-row forward has played for the London Broncos Academy since the age of 16 and also represented the BARLA Great Britain Young Lions.The second-rower played with three other London development players last season at Hull in the forms of Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who has joined the Harlequins senior squad, while Ade Adebisi has been loaned back to Hull FC for the 2006 Season, and Ian Lane who has committed himself to Harlequins Under 21 side for 2006.Worrincy will be one of four London-born players, lining up in 2006, alongside Joe Mbu, Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Ian Lane. Harlequins Coach Tony Rea said: ?Michael went well last year at Hull, and we are looking forward to working with him.?We have been impressed with the effort and commitment that all our young players have put in to fight their way to becoming rugby league players, and I am sure Michael will be the same.?The re-introduction of our Under 21 side will enable us to monitor our younger payers more closely. Whilst we were very happy with the work Hull (amongst others) have done, we now that we need to be looking after our own.?Worrincy started his career at the Greenwich Admirals, before going on to captain the Broncos Academy side in 2004 and was selected to go on the BARLA U18 tour of Australia that same year.Phil Jones, Harlequins Academy coach added: ?Michael is a great athlete who is strong and quick. We are very happy that two of the lads who went to Hull will be training with the first team in 2006.?- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
GIANTS new signing Albert Torrens has promised the Giants fans that he will do everything in his power to get his new club into the engage Super League play-offs for the first time. Torrens jetted into Huddersfield last week after arriving from Australia to take up a one-year contract and the 29 year old feels he has seen enough to convince him that the Giants can finish in the top six at the end of the year. ?I came to Huddersfield not knowing quite what to expect" said Torrens, who signed from St George. ?But I?ve been blown away with what this club and this town has to offer. ?I obviously did a fair amount of homework before committing myself to the Giants. That in itself was enough to convince me that moving here was the right choice to make at this stage of my career. Now I?ve got here, I know for sure I?ve done the right thing. "Everyone has made me really welcome and all my teammates are really good blokes. The team spirit is absolutely fantastic and this looks like a team that can make the semis, and I intend to do what I can to make sure that goal is reached."Next Giants home game at The Galpharm is a Pre Season Friendly against Bradford Bulls on Sunday 22nd January, kick off 3pm.
? THE Newtown RLFC, Australia?s first Rugby League football club, is 98 years old on Sunday, January 8, 2006. ? The club was formed at a public meeting in the Newtown Town Hall on the 8th January, 1908 and has always been known as the definitive battlers club, having experienced the highs and lows of the fortunes of the Rugby League game. ? Newtown played in the NSW Rugby League premiership competition between 1908 and 1983, before succumbing to a long struggle with soaring costs and disadvantageous social and demographic changes in its confined inner-western catchment area. The club won first grade premierships in 1910, 1933 and 1943, and narrowly lost to Parramatta in the memorable Grand Final of 1981. Originally known as the Bluebags from 1908 to 1972, they have been called the Jets since 1973. ? The Jets re-entered senior Rugby League football in the NSW Rugby League Metropolitan Cup in 1991. They dominated this competition, winning first grade premierships in 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1997, and finishing as preliminary finalists in 1994 and 1998. ? The Jets were invited to participate in the NSW Rugby League First Division competition in 2000, and the club is gearing up for its seventh season in the flagship competition of the NSW Rugby League, now known as the NSW Rugby League VB Premier League. The club has recently entered into a strategic partnership with the famous Sydney Roosters DRLFC, whereby the Jets will be the Roosters? official feeder club and the Roosters? entry in the 2006 NSWRL VB Premier League competition. In addition to their VB Premier League commitments, the Jets will also be fielding a team in the 2006 NSWRL Jim Beam Cup competition to serve as their reserve grade squad. ? Famous Bluebags and Jets personalities in the club?s first 98 years have included such famous Rugby League names as the Farnsworth brothers, Charles "Boxer" Russell, Arthur Folwell, Frank Hyde, Herb Narvo, Frank "Bumper" Farrell, Charles "Chicka" Cahill, Len Smith, Noel Mulligan, Dick Poole, Brian Clay, Johnny Raper, Frank Farrington, Jack Gibson, Brian "Chicka" Moore, Lionel Williamson, John Ferguson, Tom Raudonikis, Colin Murphy, Phil Gould and Craig Field. Prominent Sydney business identity John Singleton has been a long-standing benefactor and supporter, and has been the club?s Official Patron since 1995 and a Life Member since 2005. ? Celebrity Jets supporters comprise an eclectic list of names such as actors David Wenham and Tony Barry, Tim Brunero from ?Big Brother?, legendary WSFM DJ Ron E. Sparks, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Dr. Peter Jensen, punk rockers Frenzal Rhomb, Tim Freedman from The Whitlams, entertainer Normie Erskine, NSW District Court Judge Stephen Norrish and the NSW Minister for Education and Training, Carmel Tebbutt. ? The Newtown club had a successful season on the field in 2005, with the VB Premier League team reaching the preliminary final and the Jim Beam Cup side making the semi-finals also. Everything points to another big year for the Jets as the oldest club in Australian rugby league moves one year closer to its centenary in 2008. Photo caption: The great Frank Hyde is the Newtown club?s oldest-living former first grade player.
THE North Queensland Cowboys have defeated the Newcastle Knights 28-24 in a golden point game at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
THE strength shown in New Zealand's Bartercard Cup competition is reflected in the selections this week of a New Zealand 'A' team.
The team will face New South Wales Country at North Harbour Stadium on July 4, at 2.30pm.