Three members of Gozo RL named in Malta’s Euro Championship C squad
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Malta Rugby League national team coach Anthony Micallef launched his team’s upcoming summer internationals campaign today together with members of the national team and Super League club London Broncos.
The announcement was made at the Underhill Stadium in London
London Broncos back-rower Jonathan Wallace joined recently appointed Broncos head coach and former Malta coach Joey Grima along with Malta international Sam Keep and Malta vice-captain Clifford Debattista of Gozo RL, who both flew over from Malta for the announcement.
Malta will enter the RLEF’s European Championship C this year and their commitments kick off next month when they host Greece at home on June 28, and three weeks later the 22 in the world ranked Maltese travel away to Havlíckuv Brod for their away clash against the Czech Republic.
Malta coach Micallef announced a 42-man squad which includes three Super League players, one Queensland Cup player and 25 players from the Maltese Championship that kicked off in earnest last week, when Gozo RL upset last year’s grand finalists Stompers RL in the opening round.
The squad will include three team members of Gozo RL: Clifford Debattista, Mario Mercieca and Mark Portelli.
Micallef downplayed talk of labelling Malta as tournament hopefuls despite announcing three professional players in his squad.
Micallef commented, “It’s always nice to recognise these players that are doing some amazing things on the highest stage, but we have to look at the bigger picture. I would love to have all of them available, but whether that happens even just in one game is yet to be seen.”
“I’ve named a squad that recognises a large group of the best of what we have available in our respective leagues, both in Malta and abroad, and it will be down to the 17 that take the field to get the job done, not one or two individual players.”
“There’s no doubt that a number of players can and still may force their way into the final squad over the next month of the Maltese Championship. Things will hot up and it will get very competitive but it’s a good problem to have.”
The Broncos Jonathan Wallace debuted for Malta 18 months ago against Denmark when the Maltese recorded a 74-12 win in Copenhagen and Super League’s new kid on the block said it was an honour he is looking forward to replicating.
“It was great to make my debut almost two years ago. A lot has changed in the time since, and obviously now I will have Super League commitments to contend with, where I am hopefully selected in the Super League team, but I also hope to be in the mix for the Maltese team,” said Wallace who is known to Maltese followers as Magrin.
Sam Keep, who has two national team caps and plays with Malta Origin RL, said the Maltese Championship was coming on and it was great that Rugby League had spread to the Mediterranean island in recent years.
“I grew up in Wigan and played juniors there but with my grandparents being Maltese, I moved over there a few years ago, have settled there and recently welcomed our first child into the family, I’m really grateful that Rugby League kicked off there some five years ago and we can play the greatest game, even away from the heartlands,” said Keep.
Joey Grima is one of the men who helped kick off Rugby League in Malta with its first game back in 2005, and the recently appointed Broncos head coach says the dream was always that the game would be played on the islands.
“We set out on the cause from a small meeting room in Western Sydney back in 2004, and it’s great that the game is now thriving in Malta, BARLA and other English teams regularly heading over there for training camps and the fruits of Maltese Rugby League are being shown with five players across the NRL and Super League,” praised Grima.
Malta v Greece – 28 June, Czech Republic v Malta – 12 July, Greece v Czech Republic – 11 October.
Malta squad: Mitchell Barbara (Hemel Stags), Justin Barlogio (Washington DC Slayers), Danny Burke (London Skolars), Adrian Cutajar (All Saints Toongabbie Tigers), Danny Galea (Widnes Vikings), Shaun Gambin (Wentworthville Magpies), Daniel Grima (St Clair Comets), Corey Harland (Parra Junior Eels), Jake Lynch (Folly Lane ARLFC), Jonathan Wallace (London Broncos), Matthew Mizzi (Central Queensland Capras), Andy Muscat (Eccles Roosters), Chris Parker and Paul Parkinson (Gateshead Storm), Nathan Portelli (Gold Coast Titans), Jarrod Sammut (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Aaron Weston (Hills Bulls), Tyson Freeman, Dylan Frendo and Jean-Pierre Zarb (Eagles RL), Clifford Debattista, Mario Mercieca and Mark Portelli (Gozo RL), Clint Agius, Matthew Booth, Christian Briffa, Branton Bonello, Jeremy Dela, Pete Debono, Michael George, Sam Keep, Joe Paolella and Dillon Urry (Malta Origin RL), Malcolm Attard, Julian Caruana, Dragan Cerketa, John Ellul, Matthew Spiteri, Matthew Von Brockdorff and Ed Willis (Stompers RL), Roderick Attard and Darren Edmunds (Team Pit RL).
Photograph by Steven Devonshire