'Support us too' - Reggae Warriors call for help ahead of rugby league qualifiers
Director of Rugby at Jamaica Rugby League Association (JRLA) Romeo Monteith says that the nation should be taking its senior men's team more seriously given how well it has been doing in recent times.
The Reggae Warriors head into Rugby League World Cup qualifying in Jacksonville, Florida, against regional rivals Canada Wolverines on November 13, and Monteith is disappointed by the lack of financial support the team has got, given the improvements he has seen in its results in recent years.
The Jamaicans are 15th out of 48 countries in the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) world rankings and famously defeated then world number-seven ranked Ireland 68-16 and drew with then number eight-ranked Wales 16-16 in October 2016. Since then, the team's profile has strengthened internationally, but Monteith said that it was not the same, locally.
"That victory against Ireland propelled the profile of the Reggae Warriors greatly on the international scene," he told The Gleaner.
"We jumped to a high of 13 last year on the back of those games. It also allowed other eligible players playing professionally in the UK to start looking at Jamaica seriously.
"The problem I have is that everyone in the rest of the world is taking Rugby League seriously, but not Jamaica. The support has been abysmal. The players are self funding. They're paying most of their way to play for us. It's only the Sports Development Foundation that has come on board and given us some solid assistance to ensure that we did not actually have to pull out of these qualifiers. Some of those things like not having a field to play rugby league on in Jamaica has hampered us over the years.
But Monteith, also the Reggae Warriors head coach, is positive that despite the challenges, the team has a good chance against the number-16ranked Canadians.
'On to something good'
"I think we are on the verge of something good, so a little bit more support would help us to be an even better team," he said. "We're not far off from being a top-10 team, and, the higher up you go, the easier it is for high- quality players who are eligible for us to put their hand up and make rugby league a genuine force for Jamaica on the international scene."
The JRLA has recently named a 21-man squad for the qualifying tournament, which it describes as its strongest ever. Monteith said that unlike the last campaign, the team, which has a large English-based core, is more cohesive because they have been playing more games together.
"We have made a concerted effort over the last two years to get the UK-based players games," Monteith said. "That did not happen in 2015 because of funding issues. We had players who turned up for the qualifiers in 2015 having last played in 2011, so there were issues with chemistry. This time around, the majority of the 21-member squad has played three test matches in Europe over the last two years."
Should the Jamaicans beat Canada, they then face hosts USA or Chile for one of 16 spots in the 2021 RLIF World Cup in England.
Reggae Warriors squad:
Joel Farrell, Keenen Tomlinson, (Batley Bulldogs), Jonathan Magrin, Ross Peltier (Bradford Bulls), Daniel Thomas (Dewsbury Celtic), Jode Sheriffe (Dewsbury Rams), Aaron Jones-Bishop (Doncaster), Andrae McFarlane, Khamisi McKain, Marvin Thompson, Renaldo Wade (Duhaney Park), James Woodburn-Hall (Halifax ), Ashton Golding (Leeds Rhinos), Joseph Brown, Mo Agoro (Newcastle), Jacob Ogden (London Broncos), Jy-Mel Coleman, Lamont Bryan, Omari Caro (London Skolars) Ben Jones-Bishop (Wakefield ), Alex Brown (Unattached).