JAMAICA RUGBY LEAGUE STARS HIT TOWN WITH CONNECTING COMMUNITIES
Arguably the most exciting – and eagerly anticipated – side to be taking part in next week’s Carnegie 9’s are Jamaica.
Rugby League’s ‘reggae boys’ have received a major boost in the run up to the extravaganza at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on 26th August, with news that four of their highest rated domestic players are jetting in, on sponsors Virgin Atlantic, to join the players who ply their trade in the UK.
Vauxhall Vultures’ Brian Hutchinson, Edgar ‘Shrek’ Herbine of the Warriors, Angels’ Robert Rodney and speedster Roy Calvert from the Sharks are the ones jetting over.
Also making the trip is Lionel Wallace, a dedicated match official and media officer Omar Francis.
Scrum half Calvert will face Super League pace merchant and pre-tournament favourite Kevin Penny, among other crack professionals, in the race to determine Rugby League’s Fastest Man.
The Kingston quartet endured a nerve racking time as they only received their visas on Thursday morning, the same day as the flight.
Calvert was delighted when he received the news, "I packed my bags in case, got my Mohawk and said few prayers” he commented. “I am delighted at this opportunity and will look to leave my mark in England".
Earlier, mean machine Herbine – or ‘Shrek the wreck’ as the six foot five 260 pound prop is known in the J League – having received his visa before the rest of the boys said, "If Roy doesn’t get his clearance, I will replace him the 100 metres and I know I won’t come last".
Jamaica Development officer Romeo Monteith added, "We are delighted to finally get clearance for the boys. Many thanks to the Rugby Football League, the Rugby League European Federation, event organizer of the Floodlit 9’s Lionel Hurst, national coach Dean Thomas and all the others who made representation on behalf of Jamaica to the UK Border Agency and, finally, many thanks to the Agency for giving our athletes a chance to travel.”
Head Coach Dean Thomas is a relieved man, “This is a great day for the start of the international journey for Jamaica” he said. “These four athletes will join their UK-based team mates for a week of preparation and community activity. We have a young, inexperienced group which will mean a rapid learning curve for them but the time here will give them valuable experience of the international process.”
Once together, the Jamaica squad will be undertaking a series of events organised by ‘Connecting Communities’, part of the Leeds Rugby Foundation, which is managed by Ikram Butt.
On Saturday morning they have organised a training event in the heart of Chapletown, Leeds – where the RFL Headquarters used to be based – at the Prince Philip Centre. After that, the squad will engage with 150 children and young people who will also be taking part in sport activities at the venue.
The Jamaicans will then head to the Mandela Centre to catch up with other groups taking part in dance activities.
Lunch will be taken at Marcia’s Caribbean restaurant on Chapletown Road, where the squad will unveil their Kukri-sponsored playing kit and have a photo-shoot. Members from the local community are invited to attend and meet the players there, take photos and obtain autographs from1.45pm onwards.
On Sunday, the J-squad will be guests at Keighley Cougars before their vital Championship One clash with Hunslet Hawks, which could see two of their number in opposition, Cougars’ Jermaine Wray and Hunslet’s Michael Brown.
That game is built around the ‘Sporting Chance Project’ with some nominated youngsters, including Nathan Farrell son of ex-Cougar Carlton, set to meet their heroes.
Connecting Communities Manager Ikram Butt commented ‘ The Leeds Rugby Foundation already have forged a strong working relationship with the Jamaican Rugby League and I am delighted to be able to strengthen this through the ‘Connecting Communities’.
Thomas, whose staff includes legendary former GB winger Des Drummond, has named a 12-man squad for the 9’s which includes Harlequins Super League player Lamont Bryan.
He has also had support from some notable names in the code that are closely monitoring Jamaica’s progress with a view to getting involved in some capacity, Hull K.R’s Chev Walker being one.
JAMAICA 9’s Squad
Head Coach – Dean Thomas
Assistant Coach – Steve Pryce
Assistant coach/conditioner – Des Drummond
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