THERE'LL be some prized silverware on the line but there'll be plenty more at stake when Malta take on Niue in Saturday's Emerging Nations World Cup final according to coach Aaron McDonald.
The Knights won their way through to the final with a gritty 20-10 semi-final win over Hungary and McDonald says Sunday's Cup decider is a rare and valuable chance for Malta to stamp itself on the international rugby league map.
“I've had newspapers in Malta contact me wanting to talk about the tournament so it's great for the awareness of the game over there,” McDonald said.
“We're ranked 17th in the world so if you can start getting some games against the 15th, 14th and 13th ranked teams you can put some of those bigger nations on notice.
“If you can win the tournament you get a little bit of momentum in some of those smaller nations to grow the game and, at the end of the day, that's what we all want.”
The Knights will need to avenge a 26-16 loss to Niue in the pool stages, though that loss came without halves Justin Rodrigues and Jono Dallas.
The Illawarra pair returned for the semi-final clash with Hungary alongside some other key men, with McDonald saying the result was a major confidence boost ahead of the big dance.
“We had both Jono and J-Rod out for the [pool] games so that obviously took a bit away from our side,” The Berkeley Eagles mentor said.
"We had some makeshift halves for the first game against Niue who did a good job but it's not their normal position.They were both back for the semi and their experience and class certainly came through a bit there.
“When you bring two guys of their calibre back in it goes a long way to settling the side and getting us around the park. We scored some tries early against Hungary but then we were basically defending the rest of the game.
“Blakey Phillips was outstanding for us and a couple of our experienced players really came through for us. It was really good to aim up there and I think the boys took a lot of confidence and belief from that.”
McDonald said his side will need to rely on the same defensive steel against a big Niue side after letting them get away early in their first meeting of the tournament.
“It was unfortunate to lose that game to Niue early on but we've learned some lessons and got some players back,” McDonald said.
“You need to start well in these games and we let them dictate terms a little bit early on and spent the rest of the game chasing our tail.
“We didn't switch on early enough. When we did we came back a bit which was good to see but we need to make sure we're on from the start on Saturday.
“We're confident enough that we've got the points in us to win games, we've just got to defend well and not let them get a roll on through the middle with their big boys.
“It'll be tough but I think the boys have shown when they play 80 minutes and play for each other we're a hard team to beat.”