In a league of their own

Former St Ives Roosters duo earn Great Britain call for upcoming tour to Australia

EXCEPTIONALLY talented duo John Paxton and Michael Sykes have both been selected to represent the Great Britain Students Rugby League team on their upcoming tour of Australia.

Centre and full-back Paxton, 26 from Upwood and close pal Sykes, 24, from Wistow are both former St Ives Roosters players and attend Leeds Metropolitan University.

During the last four years, both have earned high recognition from regional call-ups to national through to their international bows.

Currently, they play both domestically for London Skolars in the co-operative Championship One and for Leeds Met in the Super Eight competition.

Back in 2008 Paxton, who played for Roosters between 2003-07, was selected for England Students for the University Rugby League World Cup, which was held in Australia and helped the team to the final – where they were beaten by the hosts in Brisbane.

And, while most students struggle to strike a balance between their academic work and university life, Paxton admits juggling his course and the rigors of playing his sport on the biggest stage can be particularly tricky.

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He said: “It’s quite hard to manage the two.

“Sometimes we have to miss lectures because we’re playing away games and things like that and we’re also training five times a week.

“But it’s really a massive honour to have been picked. You always strive to play at the highest level you can and both myself and Michael have reached the top level as students.”

Both Paxton and Sykes fly out with the Great Britain squad on June 23, with the squad heading to Bali initially for a five-day training camp.

Then it is on to Darwin in Australia from there for a match against the Northern Territory ahead of three Test matches against Australia Students.

The first Test is being played in Brisbane on July 5, with the second Test four days later before the third and final encounter in Cairns on July 13.

And they will be looking to avenge their two Test defeats by the Australians on home soil before Christmas.

Prop Sykes, meanwhile, who played for St Ives Roosters between 2000-08 as well as Wakefield at U21 level, was unfortunate to just miss the final cut for the World Cup squad three years ago, but is an integral part of this trip.

“I can’t wait, it’s going to be good to go over there and test myself against the best,” he said.

“To beat Australia over there would be a phenomenal achievement.

“The two Tests over here were really close.

“I think there was only 10 points in it through the series, so we’ve shown already we can compete against them and I thought we were unfortunate to lose those Tests.”

Paxton is studying for an MSC in Sports Events Management while Sykes is on the BA Physical Education course at Leeds.

They also raised �1,500 between them in order to be able to go on tour Down Under.