By Jason Costigan
The playing career of legendary Maltese international Jarrod Sammut has been extended for at least another season in the rugby league-mad, icy cold north of England.
In a major coup for third-tier club Workington Town, Sammut has left Cumbrian rivals Barrow Raiders to return to Derwent Park to spearhead the team’s League 1 campaign.
A former star player for the Penrith Panthers in Australia’s National Rugby League, Sammut was at Workington in 2015 when he was on loan and then the following year under contract, winning the hearts of locals.
In fact, in that second season at what is now officially Fibrus Community Stadium, Sammut carved up opposition defences – so much so, the Sydney-born maestro, according to club records, finished with 33 tries from 37 appearances.
He also plied his trade in Wales with the now-defunct Crusaders and in England with Bradford, Wakefield Trinity, London, Wigan and Leigh before spending the previous two years at second-tier Barrow.
Sammut, who turns 37 next month, said he was looking forward to his latest challenge and laughed off suggestions that he should have finished up by now.
“As the saying goes, you’re a long time retired. I’ve always taken care of my body, so I guess that has enabled me to keep going, touchwood, at least for one more year,” he said after his first training session, forced indoors because of a frozen pitch.
Workington has a proud but often turbulent history, dating back to the 1940s when It became the county’s first professional team.
The club quickly found success, winning both the First Division and Challenge Cup – the first of its kind in the TV era – before serious financial hardship and lean pickings.
Fast forward to 1990s and Town had recovered, so much so, they were part of the inaugural Super League season when England’s flagship competition even boasted a team in Paris.
Sadly for Workington, they were relegated after just two wins and have endured some epic struggles since, now finding themselves competing two levels below Super League.
Sammut said the objective clearly was to get his old team firing again, in the hope of winning promotion to the Betfred Championship.
“We have a strong following. That is what I remember the most here. The passion of the fans is unbelievable, and the club still has ambitions to get back into the Championship, he said.
“That excites me. I’m not here to pick up a pay packet and see out my career. That is what I told the club and I think it resonated with them. I want to help develop the younger players, not just physically but mentally too.
“My first training session didn’t go to plan but that is Cumbrian weather for you. It was zero degrees, and the pitch was frozen, so we went inside and trained. We’ve got a long road ahead of us but I believe as a group, we are more than capable of success.”
Workington played their first game of the year, a friendly, before Sammut’s arrival in which they copped a 42-0 hiding from Widnes Vikings.
Sammut is likely to make his return to Town colours on January 21 when they host Whitehaven in another friendly, an annual trophy game in honour of club legend and former Great Britain international Ike Southward.
Workington’s season-opening fixture is at home against Oldham on March 17.
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