Malta’s men’s national rugby league team is looking to bounce back from a loss in their last game when they take on Chile this Saturday, October 21, in Sydney.
The Knights are coming off a 38-12 defeat by Italy a week ago in Sydney. Malta had previously beaten Montenegro and Bulgaria in games played in Europe.
Head coach Aaron McDonald says losing to the Azzurri is very much on the minds of his players and they’re focused on making amends against Chile.
“Italy had a pretty good side out there with nine players from their World Cup squad, so it was always going to be a really hard game for us,” McDonald tells Rugby League Planet. “But no one likes losing and I think the boys are pretty dirty on themselves with the way we performed on the day so they’re ready for a much better effort heading into this week’s game.”
He says they played poorly in a number of areas which contributed to the loss. In particular, he attributes Italy’s win to their forwards who he says were able to roll through the middle a bit too easily at times, and when Malta had the ball, they made some bad choices.
“We turned over a lot of ball on second and third tackle which then made us defend more,” says McDonald. “The game opened up as it went on just due to the amount of our own errors.”
Due to it now being the end of the domestic season in Australia, Malta will be without several of its top line players who are on holidays and the coach says that will force him to make several changes to the Knights’ lineup for Saturday’s game.
“We just need to learn to play smarter football I suppose when we have a situation where we haven’t had a lot of training together,” continues McDonald.
“We’ve got a talented side, but they still need to gel. We’ll have new halves this week as both our halves from last time aren’t available for this game. And we’ll have a new hooker, so I think we’ll just have to try to work with each other a bit better.
“Chile will be a big side and they’ll probably try to come through the middle so our boys will need to aim up defensively.”
This will be the first time that these two countries have faced each other in a rugby league international and McDonald admits that he doesn’t know a whole heck of a lot about the Weichafes.
“A lot of the Americas sides have started to build some heritage sides over here as well in Australia,” he continues.
“They had a really good win last year against the Philippines and the week before the Philippines had actually beaten us so I’m expecting a really tough contest.
“They’ve got a lot of players who are playing locally in Sydney and Brisbane, so they’ll be competitive, and they’ll give us a good run.”
However, summing up his expectations for Saturday, coach McDonald is confident of a win for Malta.
“Oh look, I always feel we can win,” he says. “We’ve got a core group of people who have been with us for a couple of years and know the kind of footy that we like to play. We didn’t play that last time so I’m expecting a bit of a bounce back.
“And there is competition for spots, so they’ll be trying to prove to themselves and to me that they deserve their spots in the national team.
“Test jerseys don’t come cheap, and they need to show that they’re earning their spot so I’m expecting it to be a tough game, but I’m expecting to come away with a win and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t.”