Half-back Roderick Attard is set to become the first Maltese born and bred player to sign professionally abroad when he moves to Gateshead this week.
Attard, 25, recently attended an open trial at Thunder and director of rugby Chris Hood was impressed enough by what he saw to offer Attard a deal.
Attard said: “Chris wants to carry a squad of about 30 players for next season and I am proud to be one of them.
“I was thrilled when I got to know that I was selected to go for a trial with the Gateshead Thunder.
“I was prepared to do my best to take full advantage of this opportunity. The trial was a success since a few days later I was told I would be part of the squad.”
Attard thanked the support he has received before and after the trial for helping him in the historical move for Maltese rugby.
“I want to thank all those who have helped me and supported me to start this journey. Especially my family, friends, Kavallieri RFC, Gateshead Thunder personnel, Chris Hood – director of rugby at the Gateshead Thunder and Anthony Micallef and the Malta Rugby League”
“This opportunity would not have come if it were not for the development work being conducted by the Malta Rugby League. And I thank them for their support and that of the investment by the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) who is showing faith in the future that lies here in the Maltese Islands for rugby league.”
After the winding up of their previous parent company, Gateshead have been forced to re-build from scratch, and the club opted to drop to Championship 1 for 2010, despite surviving relegation on the final day of last season.
They have so far confirmed the signing of a host of players, including Fijian international Tabua Cakacaka, and Hood commented that while Attard needs work, he’s a talented player.
“His defence is very good, his fitness is good too, but we will work on his attack a little. He’s got all the attributes we’re looking for and now all we need to do is hone those”
“He’s gone home (to Malta) to tie up a few loose ends, like his job (teacher at St Ignatius tal-Handaq Boys Secondary School) over there, and he will be back as soon as possible.
“We don’t have a specific date on that yet, and it’s unlikely to be the start of training but he’s in just as much of a hurry to get started as we are.”
Malta international and teammate Daryl Psaila said: “He (Rod) is a very good rugby minded athlete. All Kavallieri players and staff will definitely miss him on the field.
“While wishing him all the best of luck, I’m also looking forward to us playing more international games together.
“I’ve known Rod for a while now and I’m sure with his determination he can achieve any target he wants.”
Roderick says rugby in the Maltese Islands is on its way up and the ‘South’ player intends to return to the islands with Rugby League being a regular activity on the rugby calendar.