PARRAMATTA Eels? Michael Vella and Sydney City Roosters? Shane Shackleton will lead Malta for the first time in two rugby league internationals later this year.Ranked inside the top five in international rugby league rankings, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) national residents team will face Malta in Port Moresby following the Maltese? match against Italy A one week earlier in Sydney.Malta?s classy back line that includes a host of NRL Premier League talent will be boosted by the two NRL forwards who will make their international debuts for the emerging nation, ranked 15th in Europe by the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF).Maltese Rugby League Association chairman Mark Sultana says the availability of the two forwards for the respective matches will be a welcome advantage against the Italians who beat Greece 58-14 in their last international and against PNG Residents who will be an dictating force in Port Moresby.?We?ve received written confirmation from the Roosters that Shane is making himself available to play in both matches. So I dare say he is a definite to play.? Sultana says.?He?s (Shackleton) absolutely busting to play for Malta??Mick?s (Vella) a true gentlemen in every sense of the term and loves being involved with the Malta Knights. I?m looking forward to him pulling on the red and white jersey and not the trainer?s blue shirt?Sydney City Roosters? Shackleton was a late omission from Malta?s line up to take on Greece and England Lionhearts last October as Roosters coach Ricky Stuart trained the Roosters forward for the weeks following the NRL?s season end.Shackleton has since made his starting debut for the Roosters and retained his spot in the forwards before suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago.Matt Gafa, playing at Harlequins RL (formerly London Broncos) in the English Super League has also indicated his availability to play in the two post-season internationals. Gafa will add to a sizzling Maltese back line.Ex Cronulla Sharks fullback Ben Sammut will skipper Malta in the two internationals.
AUSTRALIAN centre Paul Franze has quit Castleford after less than a fortnight with the Super League strugglers.
WAKEFIELD Wildcats held off a spirited second-half fightback by Harlequins to clinch a hard-fought 42-22 victory at Belle Vue.
WARRINGTON withstood a barrage of pressure before finishing with a flourish to condemn Steve McNamara to a losing start as Bradford coach, 27-4, on Sunday afternoon.
CENTRE Kirk Yeaman scored his second successive hat-trick as Hull completed their third Super League victory on the bounce, by 34-28 over Catalans Dragons, under caretaker coach Richard Agar.
BRIAN Noble?s first outing as Wigan coach could scarcely have gone better as the rock-bottom Warriors hammered Huddersfield 46-14 at the Galpharm Stadium.
DANNY McGuire scored his 100th Leeds try as the Rhinos inflicted Castleford?s third defeat in a week by 42-6.McGuire has scored in every game he has played against the Tigers and he maintained that remarkable record with a superb solo effort midway through the second half.The dazzling 23-year-old, back to his best after last season was blighted by injury problems, raced over after collecting his own chip kick to leave the visitors floundering.It was his 15th try of the season and he looks a strong bet to finish the year as engage Super League?s top try-scorer.Former Leeds prop Danny Ward, making his first return to Headingley since being sacked in January, had to endure a miserable night.The 25-year-old was a Grand Final winner in 2004 but is now battling to beat the drop with lowly Castleford.And his ex-team-mates showed no mercy, racking up nine tries in a comprehensive win.Matt Diskin and Keith Senior both crossed twice while Australian star Mark O?Neill finally made his Leeds debut after recovering from a shoulder injury picked up in pre-season.The Tigers raced into a shock lead early on when full-back Michael Platt crossed from Ryan McGoldrick?s well-timed pass.But Leeds responded quickly when Gareth Ellis crashed over for his fourth try in five games and then Senior stormed through to put Leeds in front midway through the first half.Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Richard Fa?aoso were dispatched to the sin-bin by referee Ronnie Laughton following an ugly flare-up during a first half in which Laughton awarded 14 penalties.But Leeds kept their composure and extended their lead when Jamie Peacock barged over despite the attentions of three attempted tacklers.Diskin?s second-half double, alongside further efforts from Senior, Scott Donald and Ashley Gibson wrapped up the win.Leeds: Mathers, Donald, Gibson, Senior, Williams, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauitiiti, Ellis.Replacements: Kirke, O'Neill, Scruton, Tansey.Castleford: Platt, Pryce, Bird, Franze, Dyer, McGoldrick, Davis, Ward, Henderson, Nutley, Manu, Whitaker, Roarty.Replacements: Kain, Huby, Fa'aoso, Haughey.Leeds (16) 42.Tries: Ellis, Senior 2, Peacock, Diskin 2, Donald, McGuire, Gibson. Goals: Gibson 3.Castleford (6) 6.Tries: Platt. Goals: McGoldrick.Referee: R Laughton (Barnsley)Att: 14,054
ST Helens withstood a second-half bombardment to extend their outstanding unbeaten away record in the engage Super League to 14 games after edging past spirited Salford 12-10.
SINCE Mick Cronin and Ray Price last donned the blue and gold in 1986, Eels fans have had little to crow about. Perpetual failure to achieve the major prize has left a burning hole in our bellies. It?s reaching the point where the younger Parramatta supporters are almost able to sympathise with Sharks fans. Thankfully it hasn?t been all doom and gloom though. A procession of club championships, world sevens trophies, lower grade victories and a couple of minor premierships has helped to alleviate the hunger pains a little. Whilst nothing to get vocal about, we can now share a collective inward smile and somewhat lame ?yea team?. We currently hold a trifecta of league?s ?best and fairest?, ?most improved? and ?encouragement? awards. The trophy cabinet is sitting pretty with the minor premiership, club championship and premier league cup, but there?s one big empty spot waiting to be filled. It?s a bit like spending several years planning an extravagant wedding, getting all dressed up on the big day and turning up to find three beautiful bridesmaids in position, only to be told that the bride is spending the day driving between churches in Balmain, Campbelltown and Ashfield.NRL Minor Premiership - The JJ Giltinan ShieldWith another year to sit and stare at this lopsided trophy cabinet, the mind starts to wander. The prize for the minor premiership is a big arse shield (and as The Colonel can attest, heavy). Despite being emblazoned with the words ?The J.J. Giltinan Shield?, the number of people that remember the shield?s name may be even less than the number of people who care about the minor premiership which it represents, ie. almost negligible. Whilst some of the older crowd may recall that it was introduced in 1951 and represented the major prize for a long time, only a handful of diehard extremists could tell you that it is covered by the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, requiring a temporary permit in 2002 for it to leave Australia and cross the ditch to Warriors HQ. Despite the suggestion that nobody cares about the NRL Minor Premiership and by extension, the shield that it represents, it is a heritage item and was introduced to honour the memory of one J.J.Giltinan who died the previous year. This left me with one question: Who the hell is Jay Jay?JJ GiltinanAn initial Google search brings up pages and pages on the man in question. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the articles are about his second love, sailing. Fortunately for league fans however, I can begin to answer the question by stating that James Joseph Giltinan was a guy with a bit of cash, a ship-load of guts and a rebellious streak stretching from Sydney Harbour, half way across the globe. Often referred to as the father of Australian Rugby League, he was the inaugural secretary of the NSWRL. Giltinan was an entrepreneur that ponied up the cash: for the first Kangaroo tour in 1908; and to establish the first professional football code in Australia with the Sydney based competition, breaking away from rugby union. There was a fine line in terms of JJ?s progressive nature and where exactly it would leave the game of league. His vision was for a single professional code, amalgamated with Aussie rules. Fortunately for league traditionalists who have fallen in love with the game in the decades since, he dropped the ball so to speak. The Kangaroo tour was a financial disaster, rendering his suggestion of a combined code in ruins. His legacy however is the game that is now the pinnacle of domestic sport in Australia and has had a huge influence on the game internationally as well. For most of his lifetime, Great Britain had a stranglehold on the international game, enjoying the kind of success that Australia has had in the last few decades. In fact, it was only several weeks before JJ?s death in 1950 that Australia finally broke through for its first Ashes series victory in 30 years. Aged 84, James died a happy man, this much is definitely known. He said so himself. Giltinan seems to have had a happy life which has left its mark on the generations which followed and those to come, but unfortunately, I?m not sure that I?m all that much closer to really knowing who the hell was Jay Jay.
SYDNEY Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello is out of tomorrow's Anzac Day NRL clash against St George Illawarra due to a hamstring injury.
OF all the clubs in the National Rugby League, the Cronulla Sharks have the greatest history of disappointment and abject failure. For thirty nine years they have worked towards their maiden premiership, only to fall short each and every season with remarkable consistency.
THE sun is setting on a glorious Canberra day. My mates and I are standing around the Mal Meninga lounge knocking back a few beers, trying to put off our inevitable separation, where we all disappear back to the beginning of another working week, not seeing each other until next weekend.
NEWCASTLE prop Josh Perry is facing a three week suspension after being charged over two incidents following Saturday night's NRL clash against Melbourne.
LEEDS Rhinos 42 (Senior 2, Diskin 2, McGuire, Peacock, Gibson, Donald, Ellis tries; Gibson 3 goals) def. Castleford Tigers 6 (Platt try; McGoldrick goal). Att: 14,054.
PIP died recently. He wasn?t my Granddad by birth but he was the only one I knew, the only one that cared and I miss him. I miss him although I never saw him in the years after Nana left him. After all the enduring family squabbles - after the battle with alcohol robbed him of his family. When he was gone I realised what he meant to me, and I realised it too late. I don?t think I?m alone in that.