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Jamaica’s rugby league team reach the World Cup for the first time and hope to become everyone’s second team

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The Reggae Warriors have got high hopes for their first foray in the competition

HARD tackling has replaced Cool Runnings but to quote the hit film — Jamaica, we have a rugby league team.

And after reaching the World Cup for the first time, the man behind them has revealed they aim to become everyone’s second team when the Reggae Warriors face the best on these shores in 2021.

 The Reggae Warriors will play in the Rugby League World Cup for the first time
The Reggae Warriors will play in the Rugby League World Cup for the first time

Director of rugby Romeo Monteith also believes reaching the tournament can propel the sport to the UK’s Caribbean population.

And he said a match featuring his stars in Leeds, Manchester or London would be a huge hit.

Monteith said: “I think we’ll be everyone’s second-favourite team. There are more than 800,000 Jamaicans in the UK and many more Caribbean people, so we hope they will take note.

“Us being there can definitely push rugby league to the Caribbean community.
 Team Liaison/Assistant Nicholas Wright (pictured) was rewarded for driving 15 hours from Texas to help and 15 hours back. Romeo Monteith believes Jamaica will be everyone's second favourite in England in 2021
Team Liaison/Assistant Nicholas Wright (pictured) was rewarded for driving 15 hours from Texas to help and 15 hours back. Romeo Monteith believes Jamaica will be everyone’s second favourite in England in 2021

“Jamaica is a big brand and we hope to be the team that represents not just the Caribbean but the African community as well and all people who are underdogs.

“It would be great to play in one of the areas with a large West Indian population.”

Jamaica’s qualification, sealed with a 16-10 win over the USA to clinch the Americas Championship, caps a remarkable journey for Monteith himself.

After helping set up the Jamaican Rugby League Association from scratch in 2004, he had to ignore plenty of naysayers.
 The Jamaican Rugby League Association was set up from scratch in 2004

JAMAICA RUGBY LEAGUE ASSOCIATION
The Jamaican Rugby League Association was set up from scratch in 2004

It has also not been without  sacrifice as his family still lives in Toronto, Canada, 1,800 miles away.

He added: “Most people said we were wasting our time. We didn’t have fields to play on but shared with football grounds, as we still do.

“We had four founding teams and started games in 2005. We didn’t get government recognition until 2011.

“Like any country there are areas where crime affects movement and activities.

“It’s really hard for players who live in the inner city areas to move freely and there are some fields where games can’t be played or you have to leave by a certain time.

“I’ve given up a lot of family time. It’s been hard not to watch my daughter grow.

“There were many times I thought, ‘Is it worth it?’. But reaching the World Cup is a celebratory occasion and we will bring that distinct Caribbean flavour.”
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