NATIONAL TEAM PREVIEW - A look at the Malta national team, Player by player
On Saturday, the Malta Knights take on the Denmark Lions in the the second leg of the 2012 Dove Men+Care International Series at Copenhagen Gentofte Stadium, today Malteserugbyleague.com takes a brief look at how the Malta Knights shape up.
Malta got first points on the board with a 24-12 defeat of the Danes on June 9 and Anthony Micallef’s squad sees only four changes following the unavailability of Cerketa, Frendo and Davies.Justin Barlogio (Washington DC Slayers):
Australian born and bred Barlogio spent five years based in Malta and playing rugby union before he delved into the rugby league scene and quickly made a name for himself.
With a good rugby league head on his shoulders, Barlogio is now based in the USA but makes his second trip into Europe this year for Malta’s summer internationals and had utility value able to play at halfback/five-eighth as much as he is suited also to hooker which has been his key role for Malta to date.Paul Bartlett (Maltese Exiles):
The former Cardiff Demons centre has made a name for himself as a regular tryscorer since his debut for Malta in 2009. The 24-year-old was a regular selection until his appointment with the Royal Air Force in January and will be a welcome return to the national team fold. Paul was the 56th player to represent the Malta Rugby League, of 97.Shaun Bartlett (Maltese Exiles):
Had arguably his best game for Malta against Denmark last June after debuting in the red and white against Norway in 2010. Has played often at fullback but can certainly offer value in the centres. He plays rugby league and rugby union in Wales.Paul Borg (Widnes St Maries):
A solid no nonsense prop forward. Paul, a Widnes St Maries rugby league player, played rugby union Sevens before making his debut for Malta Rugby League in 2009. In his early 30’s, Shrek as he is affectionately known, is a member of the UK-based Maltese Exiles team and as long as he can overcome some injury concerns will make his seventh appearance for Malta this Saturday.Danny Burke (London Skolars):
The 26-year-old will make his debut for Malta this Saturday in Copenhagen. Burke plays with London Skolars in England’s Championship One and specialises at hooker but can also fill in at the halfback.Clifford Debattista (Gozo RC):
Clifford made his debut for Malta in 2010 and soon after instigated the formation of rugby league in Gozo where he is player-coach.
A role model for Gozitan rugby players, Clifford plays in the back row and is accredited as one of only three Level Two coaches in Malta.John Ellul (Sliema Stompers RL):
Broke into the national team as the 97th ever Malta rugby league international - along with team mate Dragan Cerketa this year after a solid season with Sliema Stompers RL who won the Maltese domestic championship going undefeated.
Cerketa is unavailable for the away leg in Copenhagen but Ellul – also a prop, will be looking to take it to another level in his second national team appearance. Ellul has good size about him and could feature as a destructing figure for the national team just as he is in Malta's Dove Men+Care Championship.Shaun Gilmour (Maltese Exiles):
The versatile Warrington Wizards centre-come-back rower is also captain of the UK based Maltese Exiles team. Gilmour is always rugby ready, keeping himself well occupied with rugby league and rugby union. The utility can play centre but is equally damaging in the back row and was Malta's 2011 RLEF European Shield Player of the Tournament. Carl Grima (Maltese Exiles):
Grima will make his national team debut against Denmark and was a standout for the Maltese Exiles in the Unofficial Exiles World Cup in Leeds earlier this month. A centre at club level, Grima is expected to feature at prop or second row and plays for Flimby – leaders of the Cumberland second division league. Gary Hili (Gozo RC) (pictured right):
A committed young player from the Gozo club, the back-rower is one of the leading players from the sister island’s first rugby league team. Hili made his representative debut for Malta last September against Norway and has grown as a player, taking a hands on role at Gozo RC, as treasurer of the club and an assistant coach.Shan Francois Hussain (Gozo RC) (pictured left):
The Gozo RC duo made their representative debut in 2011. They provide Gozitans a vision for opportunity for national team honours despite Hussain suffering a well publicised broken leg in his debut appearance against Germany in Hochspeyer last year. Hili and Hussain will likely appear off the interchange bench and utilised in the forwards.Sam Keep (Malta Origin):
The 20-year-old from Wigan moved to Malta only 12 months ago and his Maltese grandmother leaves him eligible to represent Malta after only one season in the MRL Championship. Keep has a good rugby league brain despite his young age and debuted for Malta last June.Jonathan Magrin (London Broncos):
Born just outside the Maltese capital at Pieta, Magrin has grown up in England and is signed to the London Broncos Academy where he hopes to break into Super League over the next two seasons. The prop was referred to the MRL by the RFL’s Andy Gilvary following a fact-finding mission to Malta in 2011.
Magrin started playing rugby union at 14 and after two seasons, switched to rugby league.
He was spotted in his first season for Croydon by London Broncos Head of Youth Performance Phil Jones and soon after was rewarded with a place in the Harlequins RL U16's scholarship team.
Away from rugby, he has a keen focus on his A levels and studies English Literature and enjoys reading, listing Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' as his favourite book.Joe Paolella (Malta Origin):
The 18-year-old prop was introduced to rugby league only ten months ago after playing rugby union from a young age. Thrust into the middle against the touring Leeds Akkies, he led the Malta Origin team through this year’s Maltese domestic championship and was called up for his debut last June coming off the interchange bench. Chris Parker (Maltese Exiles) (pictured right):
The Malta captain was referred to the MRL by former Sharks and Dragons NRL and former Malta international Luke Branighan. After a distinguished representative debut, Parker made his debut for Malta in 2009. From then, he quickly became a respected figure and after former captain Daniel Grima’s retirement in 2011 was appointed national team captain. A very active MRL figure, the prop-come-ball playing lock forward was behind the launch of the UK-based Maltese Exiles concept.Paul Parkinson (Maltese Exiles) (pictured left):
Debuted in June against Denmark and slotted right in as a key player where he directed Malta around the park like an established half along with providing flair in attack and commitment in defence. Parkinson was scouted for the MRL by Malta captain Chris Parker and soon afterwards joined the Maltese Exiles.Matthew Von Brockdorff (Sliema Stompers RL) :
Maltese born and bred, the Sliema Stomper is a dual Maltese rugby international.
Von Brockdorff made his debut for the MRL in 2010 against Norway and has recently bulked up considerably, making him an option to be utilised in the back row, as the 24-year-old loves getting involved in the contact that rugby league is known for.Ed Willis (Sliema Stompers RL):
The Sliema Stompers RL utility made his Malta debut in June and grabbed a late try in the corner for the Maltese. Born and bred in England, Willis has made Malta his home and is a fierce competitor on the rugby pitch with a good knowledge of each form of rugby. He is handy with the ball and while he played on the wing last June has the ability to move into the halves or hooker role.Jarrod Sammut (Bradford Bulls):
Words cannot describe the ability of this talented little player that can slot into a number of positions at this level of international rugby league. The former NRL star has made Super League his home for the past three seasons and the dual Maltese rugby international is arguably the most recognisable rugby league player in Malta after the Wests Tigers’ Benji Marshall.
Sammut commenced his professional rugby league career in Australia's NRL at the Penrith Panthers before making the move to the beleaguered Wrexham based Crusaders club in Super League. One of the shortest players in professional rugby, Sammut made one appearance for Malta Rugby Union in 2009.Final WordsChris Parker (Malta captain):
“We’re really looking forward to making the trip over to Denmark. We feel the last time we travelled as a squad, to Germany, we didn't do our selves any justice, but a lot of lessons have been learnt and if we are to progress as a rugby league playing nation, we have to travel well”
“I'm excited by the quality of player we have available at our disposal for the game and feel we have the ability to cause the Danes problems from all over the pitch, but they will come at us hard. They brought a physical game to Malta and I'm expecting the same again in Copenhagen but we won't step back from that physical battle. Game day can't come quick enough for the boys”Anthony Micallef (Malta coach):
“The timing for the lead-up to this second leg has proven difficult for our Malta based squad and we’ve probably had a dogged preparation to be fair. But the boys have been regularly in training for their respective pre-seasons and we’ve got a few sessions in the last four weeks, be it of a basic level”
“At this level of rugby league, the home side is always advantaged in some ways, and we understand that, but we too have strengthened our squad. One, by keeping together most of the squad that played against Denmark in June. And also in that all of the players have come through the MRL system, either by way of our domestic championship, or via the Maltese Exiles concept in the UK. And finally, while it is disappointing that Dragan, Dylan and Joey are unavailable – as they were strong for us last June, we have brought in players of a strong level playing abroad”
“What I’m expecting; another strong battle. The Danes at home will be much stronger than the Danes on our own turf and in the middle of a hot Maltese summer. This match is on their conditions and they’ll be better for it. They have some handy players that can reak havoc for us all day if they’re on their game”
“At the same time, we have a very capable team, one that the Maltese population can be very proud of. I’m comfortable we can come away with the points and win the Dove Men+Care International Series trophy for 2012”LIVE SCORE UPDATES
Live updates of the match will be available at twitter.com/MALTARL.