Rugby league is now offering a genuine opportunity to the young people of Jamaica, with some now being granted scholarships to go to universities and play rugby league.
Jamaica lead coach Roy Calvert insists the future is bright on the back of their first-ever Rugby League World Cup.
The Reggae Warriors failed to win a game at the tournament, but it’s about much more than that. Jamaica want to create and leave a legacy.
“Back in Jamaica, we have thousands of young kids who are looking for an opportunity,” Calvert said.
“We are seeing that, as a heavy track and field nation, rugby league is now offering a genuine opportunity to those young people.
“There are people in Jamaica who are now getting scholarships to go to universities in Jamaica to play rugby league. That’s massive for us.”
“We play on soccer pitches, strapping PVC pipes to the posts”
Calvert hopes more sponsors will jump on board with Jamaica Rugby League on the back of their historic World Cup campaign.
“Jamaica is a massive sporting nation,” Calvert acknowledged. “But unfortunately, we do not have the resources to go around.
“For example, we have no dedicated rugby league pitches in Jamaica. We play on soccer pitches, strapping PVC pipes to the posts.
“The dimensions for a soccer field is different to rugby league so you can imagine these boys coming here (to England) and realising the pitches are much wider and longer here.
“Locally, we do not get enough support but to be fair I think every nation will have the same complaints. Hopefully from being in this World Cup and being in the spotlight in Jamaica, it will encourage corporate entities in Jamaica to come on-board a bit more.
“For us, the massive thing is: one, we need a home field; and two, we need to drive our playing numbers up because when we do I think that’s when players will get better over time.”
🇯🇲 Jamaica score their first-ever try at a Rugby League World Cup!
— Love Rugby League (@loverugbyleague) October 22, 2022
Domestic players make their mark for Jamaica
There were six players from Jamaica’s domestic competition in their World Cup squad. All six came from Duhaney Park Red Sharks, who recently won the National Club Championship Grand Final for the 14th time in 16 seasons.
One of those players is Chevaughn Bailey, who played in all three of Jamaica’s group games.
“I’m so proud of Chevaughn,” Calvert added. “I coach him at club level and he has certainly come here and proven that there are players local in Jamaica who, if given the opportunity, can stand up here.”
Bailey said of his first-ever World Cup: “It was a great experience and I’ve learned a lot.
“From playing in Jamaica and playing here is two different things. The intensity is really above what we play in Jamaica so I’ve learned a lot. When I go back home I can pass on all the knowledge I’ve learned on to all the young boys so they can get the opportunity like I’ve had.”
Jamaica will host the Americas Championship in 2023, which is the qualifying series for the 2025 France World Cup.