Mascot Jets player Bradley Littlefair trains at Sannat ground
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Mascot Jets player Bradley Littlefair, (pictured above right), trained with his new team mates three weeks ago. Not at his usual stomping ground at Mascot Oval, but in the village of Sannat, Gozo.
Over 16,000 kilometres away, the young lock impressed in the Gozo team’s 50-4 loss to a touring English team and Malta coach Anthony Micallef’s eyes continued to watch the teenager following a referral from his Australian based contact David Axisa who heads up the Sydney-based Maltese Heritage RL development project.
Bradley’s father Greg praises the Maltese Heritage RL for creating the pathway to Bradley’s call up to representative honours following his son’s call up to the Maltese national XIII a few days after his appearance for Gozo.
The Maltese Heritage team, sponsored locally by Maltageneology.com, has entered tournaments across Sydney to provide eligible players like Bradley, whose grandfather Edward was born in Malta, the opportunity to play with other Australian-Maltese rugby league players.
Bradley says his representative debut for the Malta XIII against the British Army is a match he will never forget. For the least of which, the Maltese won the match 26-24 in a match that has been described in media reports from Europe as ‘a thriller.’
“The experience was so good, the weather was perfect, maybe too hot, there was a big and emotional crowd and the game was intense, everything a rugby league game should have, big hits, a few biffs and some real good tries,” says Littlefair after returning to Sydney.
“I didn’t know how I would go. The players were a lot bigger than me and I was the youngest in the squad but I think I took it okay
“Malta is 30 miles long and is an archipelago of only three main islands and with a fledgling four-team national rugby league championship, has a national team ranked 21 in the world, the highest ranking of any Maltese national sporting team before it.
“I injured my shoulder in the warm up but it was an important game, I just tried to play my best while I was out there,” says Littlefair who played the entire 80 minutes.
Not only was Bradley faced with playing against tried and tested rugby players from the British Army, but also temperatures at this time of year in the Mediterranean are rarely below 29 degrees.
“Maybe it was a bit hot and I could say it was a bit different playing on astroturf, but it was the best experience of my life. It was a great feeling to represent something that means so much to me. And I also made a lot of good mates that I will keep for years to come.
“I didn’t know what to expect at first but it exceeded all expectations. The players and coaching staff where very accepting and welcoming, they took me in like their own and helped me in any way possible. I really appreciate how nice they were, as I said, I have made lifelong friends.”
Maltese Heritage RL team manager David Axisa commented, “congratulations to Bradley on his debut. The feedback I’ve received from the senior playing group and skipper Chris Parker was that Brad held his own and slotted straight into the Maltese Rugby League environment.
“It gives me great satisfaction and encouragement that our heritage programm can provide these opportunities for our younger players.”