Congrats to the Reggae Warriors and the rugby fraternity

Saturday, November 24, 2018

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Most Jamaicans know next to nothing about rugby, which is traditionally seen in local circles as a poor, distant cousin to football. But available evidence suggests that popular public perception about rugby will change dramatically over the next few years.

Sports watchers will have noticed over recent times increasing prominence being given to rugby in the media, as a growing number of young people take to an activity which thrives on speed, agility and strength. We recall raised eyebrows when news broke that sprint star and Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir had joined the national Rugby Union Sevens team.

The clincher came earlier this week with news that sister to the Rugby Union set-up, the national Rugby League team, dubbed the Reggae Warriors, had qualified for the 16-team Rugby League World Cup set for England in 2021. Rugby Union and Rugby League play the sport using different rules.

The Reggae Warriors became the first Caribbean team to qualify for a Rugby League World Cup when they defeated the USA 16-10 in the final of the recently concluded Americas Championship in Jacksonville, Florida.

We are reminded that the Warriors are following in the footsteps of the Rugby (Union) Sevens team which participated at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in midyear.

As this newspaper understands it, this is the first victory for Jamaica over the USA in Rugby League competition. Indeed, we are told that the Jamaica Rugby League Association was only formed in 2004.

The Reggae Warriors will join hosts England, World Champions Australia, Fiji, France, Lebanon, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Wales as the teams that have already qualified for the 16-team tournament. Four more spots will be filled by European teams, while another spot will be taken by the USA, South Africa or the Cook Islands, depending on who wins their intercontinental play-off tournament.

Given that traditionally, rugby has very little standing in the eyes of Jamaicans and little or no support, materially or otherwise, this achievement by the nation's rugby players is staggering. It comes as yet more evidence of the possibilities for the Jamaican people once they put their minds to a task.

We note the words of Mr Marvin Thompson, captain of the Reggae Warriors: “It's not every day you hear 'Jamaica', 'Rugby' and 'World Cup' in one sentence, and now we're headed to the largest tournament in the world. …This journey has not been easy; we had to fight our way to get to where we are right now, and pay our way, and that's why it means so much to us. This win means a lot not just to us but to Jamaica. It's a groundbreaking experience to be heading to the World Cup…”

We have a feeling Mr Thompson and his team are set to soar to even greater heights in the months and years ahead. Our congrats and best wishes to the entire rugby fraternity. May the sport grow from strength to strength to the greater glory of Jamaica and its people.

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