by Jason Costigan
Maltese legend Jarrod Sammut has opened up on a secret battle with injury as the former Australian and English Super League star attempts to extend his professional Rugby League career.
Sammut played most of this year under handicap – early on, inconvenienced by a calf injury before suffering a serious knee problem whilst turning out for English club Barrow.
Scans later revealed the extent of the damage – a grade two MCL tear but the situation remained a mystery as the Sydney-born playmaker tried to keep Barrow’s finals hopes alive.
“It was kept strictly in-house,” said Sammut, now finished with the Cumbrians and speaking ahead of Malta’s one-off Test against Mediterranean rivals Italy in Australia on Saturday.
“No-one knew apart from the coach, physio and the club chairman. I just soldiered on, taking a pain-killer before each game. No needles but it’s very weak and unstable. It’ll need a rest soon.”
That rest will almost certainly come after the game in Sydney – an International Rugby League-sanctioned fixture that Sammut is looking forward to after blitzing Bulgaria on September 23.
Not surprisingly, his three tries and 13 goals in the 78-0 routing won him man-of-the-match honours at Marsa and now the 36-year-old wants to back it up as he seeks a new contract for 2024.
Sammut, who’ll play scrum-half against the Italians, insists he still has plenty to offer and isn’t fussed about where he might end up.
“I’d like to play out my career in Australia but I’m open to offers from anywhere,” said the dual international, who draws inspiration from Steve Menzies, the legendary Australian forward who played professionally – in both hemispheres – until he was 40.
“He (Menzies) looked after himself and his body. I’ve tried to do the same and I’ve made many sacrifices along the way. I’m not ready to give it away just yet. I still have that fire in the belly.
“And besides, I love representing Malta and my Maltese family and heritage. To pull on the jersey again, it’s a great honour.”
Sammut’s presence is a huge plus for the Knights, who have slid to No.19 in the IRL rankings and face an Italian side ranked 14th but without their big guns from last year’s World Cup.
Malta, who beat the Azzurri 23-20 when they last met three years ago, is also fielding a below-strength line-up with South Sydney sensation Tallis Duncan, who debuted for the Knights against Lebanon last year, among the notable absentees.
The team had its ‘captain’s run’ at the home of East Campbelltown in Sydney’s south-west without incident, training alongside several Maltese heritage teams in both youth and women’s.
Malta’s international programme Down Under continues on October 21 against Chile before tackling the Philippines on October 28.
Malta Knights: 1. Connor McDermott, 2. Logan Sipple, 3. Zarrin Galea, 4. Jake Zammit, 5. Lucas Borg, 6. Ryley Smith, 7. Jarrod Sammut, 8. Blake Phillips, 9. Jordan Xuereb, 10. Zac Vella, 11. Tyler Cassel (c), 12. Kyle Cassel, 13. Anthony Bucca.
Replacements: 14. Carlo Cassar, 15. Dylan Hodson, 16. Tyson Jackson, 17. Ryan Azzopardi, 18. Luke Sherry, 19. Will Exton.
Coach: Aaron McDonald.
World Cup News
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