It has been eight years since the introduction of rugby league to Jamaica. But gone are the nervous days when many wondered whether the demanding team sport would survive in this nation of gifted athletes.
Then, there were only four teams fanning the flames of a revolution. Fast forward to the end of 2012 and those at the head of the JRLA are looking forward to 2013 after another successful year of growth and expansion.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” said Romeo Monteith, Director of Rugby at the JRLA and Rugby League European Federation Development Manager for the Caribbean. “2012 was a solid year for us; we had a productive national competition with eight clubs competing, a five team Intercollegiate Championship and activities in 12 high schools and some primary schools.”
The JRLA also received a major boost with recognition and support from the country’s Sports Development Foundation, the Government Agency established to contribute to nation building through sport, and have qualified dozens of coaches and match officials through partnerships with GC Foster College and the RLEF.
JRLA Chairman Ventley Brown is hoping to institute more new projects in 2013. “It is important that we continue to train and educate officials and coaches in the coming years,” he noted. “Our training courses will empower new ambassadors of rugby league while upgrading existing skills.”
It is stories like that of Leon Thomas that has the Chairman most excited. He completed the first JRLA /GC Foster College coaching course in April and used the experience to start rugby league at Excelsior Community College in Kingston.
They will become the newest and sixth institution to make up the Intercollegiate Rugby League Championship which begins in January 2013.
“It means a lot to introduce the sport to new people”, commented Leon. “We are already having a positive impact on students and the support of the administration has been fantastic.”
The intercollegiate competition has been one of the great success stories for the sport in Jamaica, with over a dozen student athletes receiving scholarships in the past year. They also currently make up half of the national team.
With the growth of the sport – in 2011 the JRLA oversaw 10 youth teams, this year the number reached 27 – and the proven ability of the JRLA to sustain and expand its frontiers, the governing body intends to seek Full Membership of the Rugby League European Federation and the Rugby League International Federation in 2013, a sign of the confidence permeating the island.
According to Monteith, “Full Membership, along with continued support from the Sport Development Foundation and GC Foster College, will further strengthen our position in Jamaica’s rich sporting landscape.”
“It will help the JRLA to sustain and fuel the expansion of the sport in the region. The support of these institutions is critical in getting rugby league into our 14 parishes and the wider Caribbean.”
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