Jamaica coach Romeo Monteith hopes their debut at the World Cup inspires the next generation of Jamaicans around the world to pick up a rugby ball.
The Reggae Warriors will make their first-ever appearance at a Rugby League World Cup this weekend. They face Ireland in their first game at Headingley.
Monteith, a member of the Jamaican association’s founding board in 2004, wants to inspire the younger generation of Jamaicans around the world to get involved with rugby league.
“It’s fantastic being here with all the boys,” he told Love Rugby League. “The dream is now reality.
“It’s a really good feeling that we are a few days away from the World Cup. It’s a moment for the staff to savour and the people back on the island. It is a great time to be a supporter of Jamaica rugby league and international rugby league.
“I’m thrilled to be here. I am happy for all the people who have been involved in this project from day one. I’m hoping we can have more domestic players and more players who are based in the UK of Jamaica ancestry who can play for us. I just want us to grow stronger and stronger.”
Jamaica’s World Cup squad is largely made up of heritage players who are based in the UK. There are six domestic players who have been selected – five from Duhaney Park Red Sharks, who recently won the National Club Championship Grand Final for the 14th time in 16 seasons.
“It’s massive having six boys who started their journey in Jamaica,” Monteith added.
“I’m proud of Abevia McDonald. He picked up the sport in college two years ago, migrated to England and is now a regular in the London Skolars team. I’m thrilled about that.”
Romeo Monteith: We want people to get on board with Jamaica RL
There is a large population of people with Jamaican heritage in West Yorkshire. Monteith hopes as many of them get behind the Reggae Warriors in their World Cup opener on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a rocking atmosphere,” he said. “I’m not sure if the steel bands will come out as they did against England Knights but that would be nice.
“The sport in the UK, we want to see more diverse faces knowing about the sport because one of the things I’ve realised coming here over the years, a lot of (Jamaican) people just don’t know or they are not engaged by the sport, it’s all about football or cricket. I think that this Jamaican team playing in the World Cup will hopefully help with that.
“Facing Ireland is going to be a massive task. They’ve got a very good squad so we just have to go out there and put our best effort in. Along with Ireland, we want to treat the crowd to a very competitive game, that’s what we are selling. As long as we can deliver that to the fans then I think it will be a win-win for both teams.”
Jamaica are in a group alongside New Zealand, Lebanon and Ireland.