Field of dreams - JRLA appeals to Government for assistance for permanent ground
Jamaica Rugby League Association (JRLA) director Romeo Monteith has appealed to the Government to assist the body in securing a permanent ground for the sport.
Monteith, who is also the national senior men's team's head coach, oversaw the Reggae Warriors' historic 2021 Rugby League World Cup qualification with their 16-10 beating of the USA Hawks in the final of the Americas Championship in Florida on Saturday. But he said that the task was never an easy one, given how many times the JRLA had tried and failed to get into the World Cup. This, he said, was because of the lack of resources the association has had to work with over the years, including somewhere of good standard to play.
"Rugby League needs a field in Jamaica," Monteith told The Gleaner. "It's crazy to see our young kids playing on hard fields with stones and scrounging, really begging football administrators to allow us to use their fields. We're in the World Cup now, and we're really appealing and begging the prime minister to really step in and allocate a field to Rugby League in Jamaica. Rugby Union, as well, is right there, having made the World Cup Sevens. Please. That's what we want. We need something to help the game to grow on the island."
Monteith said that finding quality local players is not an issue, but the difficulties faced by the local leagues make it hard for them to develop as needed.
"There's so much talent on the island, but they need opportunities. We can't continue like this," he said with a deep sigh. "We've done the hard work ourselves. The players, they paid their way to play in these World Cup qualifiers. Every single player on that field, on that bench, they went into their pockets and paid for their airfare. All the domestic players we brought to the qualifiers, the English professionals say these boys could be playing professionally in England."
While appealing to the Government for support, Monteith thanked the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) for the role it has played in financing the team over the years.
"The SDF were the only ones to come on board and give us any significant help," he said. "The SDF was how we were able to feed the players and pay the balance on our hotel rooms. We don't want to see things continue like this because more players will want to come on board now, and higher-calibre professional players in the United Kingdom will put their hands up for Jamaica. Not everyone is able to pay their way and go and represent the country of their heritage. We're going to the World Cup, we need the support."
The Reggae Warriors are the first Caribbean team to qualify for a Rugby League World Cup. They join hosts England, World Champions Australia, Fiji, France, Lebanon, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Wales as the teams already qualified for the 16-team tournament. Four more spots will be filled by European teams, while another spot will be taken by the USA, South Africa or the Cook Islands, depending on who wins their intercontinental play-off tournament.