Young Crocs Rugby Academy launched
Jamaica's rugby is aiming to score big with the establishment of the Young Crocs Rugby Academy, a high-performance centre for the sport with a goal to catapult the country to the top from its tier five status.
Major players shared optimism at Tuesday evening's launch of the Academy at the Jamaica Stock Exchange, downtown Kingston, where it was revealed that Vitae Sports Management would be driving the project with funding, while Huntley Anderson would be head coach.
"The vision behind the academy is to create a high-performance sports centre in terms of rugby. It has not been done here in Jamaica before," shared Anderson, who is also coach of St George's College.
"Jamaica is at fifth tier in rugby, and I would really love to see us get up to tier one. The only way that will take place is if we have systems in place, a structure in place and that starts with a high-performance centre ... to ensure that there is a pathway to development for players coming from the high school system through to the senior stage, especially with the gap we have between the Under-19 team and the senior team," he explained.
The Academy is based at one of the island's leading rugby-playing institutions, St George's College, and Vitae made an initial sponsorship of $500,000 to the first year of the programme for the Young Crocs, a national reference for rugby teams with the senior men known as 'Crocs', and the women called the 'Lady Crocs'.
Much of the contribution will go towards gear and nutrition, with the school's gym also available for a holistic development of the sport's athletes, who will be recruited through the various competitions. Now there are 47 members at the Academy and Anderson said they are looking to increase the numbers to 100.
Ultimately, the goal is the raise their game to world level, then acquire semi-professional and professional contracts in some of the world's top leagues.
This would reciprocate world-class standard for national teams, thus facilitating the push from tier five and ultimately a place at the Rugby World Cup.
"It's in line with the vision that we the Rugby Union have for rugby. It is one step in the direction where we need to go," noted Jerry Benzwick, chairman, Jamaica Rugby Union.
"We want to thank Vitae for being on board with us, this is key. We don't have a lot of sponsors at the moment in rugby. I believe that you taking us on will help other sponsors to see there is something worth investing in," added Benzwick.
One of Vitae's leading representatives is national player Crisdan Grayson, who has been exposed to the game in countries where the sport is huge, including England and New Zealand. He also has top-level coach and umpire certification from the sport's world governing body, World Rugby (previously International Rugby Union).
"It's all about helping the Rugby Union," said Grayson, who has been playing for Jamaica for 15 years in succession and will also serve as assistant coach of the Academy.