Jamaica became one of the feel-good stories of the year on the weekend.
Reggae Warriors proving popular
The feel-good story of the weekend came all of the way from Jacksonville, Florida.
Jamaica became the first-ever Caribbean nation to make a World Cup, which sparked amazing scenes following the full-time hooter at the Hodges Stadium. They beat favourites USA 16-10 to win the Americas Championship and more importantly, seal a World Cup spot for 2021.
What was so nice to see was the love for Jamaica on social media after the game from all over the globe. People from the northern and southern hemispheres were congratulating the team, as well as players from Jamaica’s domestic league – which was lovely to see. Rugby league loves a feel-good story and it’s safe to say that the international game is making big strides. Who is anyone to say Jamaica can’t go one better and get out of the group stages at the World Cup?
It’s crucial that USA reach World Cup
There is no doubting that Jamaica were the story of the weekend, but it is important to focus on USA as well and it is important that the Hawks also reach the 2021 World Cup.
USA have another chance of making the finals for the third time, but must come through another qualifying group which will also include South Africa and Cook Islands in 2019.
With the possibility of a New York-based rugby league team entering the Rugby Football League ranks in the next couple of years, the club would need to thrive of its national side as well and it would be sad not to see the States at the next tournament.
If the NYC side are to grow, they need to help of their national side. The national side competing on the big stage at international level will help grow and develop the New York club.
World Cup could capture Jamaican communities in England
With Jamaica now having qualified for the 2021 World Cup which will take place in England, hopefully that will help capture the hearts of Jamaican communities in England.
Not only would the Reggae Warriors bring in a fresh audience to rugby league, they would put Jamaica on the rugby league map and might even bring in more revenue and increased exposure to the sport. It could potentially be a win-win for everyone involved.
There are big Jamaican communities in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester as well as a huge population of Jamaicans in London. Jamaica qualifying for the World Cup could be one of the best things to happen to rugby league.
Chile will learn lessons
Chile finished last in the 2018 Americas Championship, but they have done very well to get to where they are now.
They Chileans lost 62-0 in their first game against USA, while the Wiechafes were thumped 62-12 by Canada in their other game. Chile scored their first-ever points against non-Latin American opposition as they crossed twice against the Wolverines.
“We’ve enjoyed the experience and need to take that into the next few years,” said Chile head coach Roderigo Miller.
Chile can certainly build on their Americas Championship campaign. The scorelines they lost by don’t do them justice, but this won’t be the last we’ve heard of Chilean rugby league.
Jamaica players self-funding highlights heritage importance
There is always a big debate when it comes to countries picking heritage players, rather than selecting domestic players for the national side.
But the fact that Jamaica’s heritage players had to self-fund their way to the Americas Championship in Florida highlights just how important family heritage is to people. The Reggae Warriors fielded 15 British-based in their win over USA, but should that even matter when it comes to the debate? They have Jamaican heritage and they are proud to wear their jersey.
The players were proud to represent their families and their effort and desire to do it for Jamaica could have just been the difference against the Hawks. Jamaica star Joel Farrell was offered money to represent Scotland, but decided that he wanted to help Jamaica reach the World Cup and self-funded the trip himself. Heritage means a great deal to people.