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EXCLUSIVE: Monteith hoping for carnival atmosphere after RLWC qualification

When Jamaica beat the USA earlier this month, the Reggae Warriors made history by qualifying for their first Rugby League World Cup and Romeo Monteith’s men are aiming to impress in the competition which, in 2021, will be hosted in England.

After the nations’ historic achievement, Get ’em Onside got in touch with the Jamaican head coach and the man in charge of the first Carribean nation to ever qualify for the competition is understandably proud of his team’s achievement. While confessing that the sport is a minor one in the country, he revealed that, nevertheless, people are keen to celebrate the victory. “Our minister of sport has acknowledged our historic feat with a press release,” he told the site, adding that “family and friends and people on the street have been buzzing about it.”

Such is the relatively small standing of rugby league in Jamaica, Monteith – in charge of the national team since 2011 – shared that there is a lack of facilities available to the team. Not that that, though, has stopped the passion shining through. “We have no home or field for rugby of any sort in Jamaica, so we share with football fields which are usually not suited because of stones and hardness,” he admitted. That has, in his opinion, hit the participation levels due to parents wanting to ensure children don’t feel the impact of injuries caused by such surfaces. Nevertheless, there has been increasing interest in recent years, he revealed. “There’s a lot of interest from young males and females to play,” he proudly explained. “They get excited whenever they see a ball and want to be involved. We have close to a thousand active players as we are in a dozen high schools, six colleges and we have a fair few community teams,” he added. The fact that the nation has qualified for the World Cup will, Monteith believes, lead to even more interest in the sport.

Within the Reggae Warriors’ ranks are Super League stars Ashton Golding and Ben Jones-Bishop of Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity respectively and, with the pair lining up against less illustrious players from lower league teams in the UK system, their impact has been vital for the team’s success. “Ben and Ashton were great for the group, humble and natural leaders,” he explained, adding that the Super League talent has always been keen help and represent the Jamaican nation. Indeed, the addition of Golding and Jones-Bishop to the squad were the final pieces of the national team jigsaw according to Monteith who expressed his belief that, ever since losing to USA’s Hawks in 2011, he and his team have been working towards this triumph. Of the victory in Jacksonville this month, the head coach admits that he was always confident. “We knew we could do it but we knew we had improve the coaching support,” he explained. He added that it was important to get a UK-based staff to keep the England-based players together so that the team would have chemistry. Demonstrating the desire for the game to succeed in Jamaica and the player’s will to represent the country, Monteith told the site that, given a lack of funding, “the players agreed to pay most of their airfares to play and, well, the rest is history.”

While Jamaica will head to England in 2021 as underdogs, their ambitious and confident head coach spoke of his belief that his team won’t be pushovers. “We are going to the cup to compete,” adding that “I think we’ll be most people’s second favourite team.” With a large population with Jamaican and Caribbean links in the UK, Monteith hopes that the team will be able to capture their imaginations. “We hope the entire Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora in the UK will rally around the team and it a carnival atmosphere,” he continued.

With a history of colour and celebration being historically linked with Jamaican sporting teams, their presence at the 2021 World Cup will no doubt catch the eye off the field. If Monteith and his team have their way, they will also impress on the pitch.

JAMAICA celebration

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Cool Scrummings: Jamaica qualify for 2021 RLWC

JAMAICA celebration
Jamaica celebrate after qualification in Jacksonville. Image credit: rugbyleagueplanet.com

After beating USA 16-10 in Jacksonville on Saturday, a Jamaican team boasting Super League quality ensured that the nation qualified for their first ever RLWC campaign and will participate in the 2021 edition in England.

Against the odds, the Reggae Warriors triumphed over their more-fancied American opponents, a team who have competed in the past two World Cups. In their ranks, the Hawks had Hull FC’s Bureta Faraimo lining up in the centres and the powerful back kicked one of his two attempts at goal for the USA after Connor Donehue and Ryan Burroughs crossed for tries – but only after the Jamaicans, led by man of the match Ashton Golding, had raced into a sixteen point lead.

Leeds man Golding started at hooker as head coach Romeo Monteith sprung a surprise and, despite a neck injury in the second half, he continued. In the first half, the 22-year-old provided from dummy-half and teamed up with Halifax’s James Woodburn-Hall to release Joel Farrell and the Sheffield-bound forward opened the scoring. Less than ten minutes later, interchange Jacob Ogden sent the Jamaican sport into raptures as they extended their lead, allowing them to think the unthinkable. Ogden, a player who had played the majority of his 2018 rugby in Betfred League One with either Coventry Bears or London Skolars on loan from the Super League-bound Broncos, grounded in the corner after Farrell’s pass went to ground and, along with four goals in the first half from Jy-Mel Coleman of the Skolars, a 16-10 lead was held by the Reggae Warriors at half-time.

A scoreless second half followed after the defences dominated, something the Jamaican team would certainly have settled for and, following the final whistle, Monteith’s team and staff celebrated, the euphoria clear for all to see. After triumphing over their more-favoured opponents, Monteith, Golding and Co. have a maiden World Cup appearance to look forward to. The American team, however, will have to go through a second qualification process in 2019 as they aim for a place at a third consecutive World Cup outing.

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Third test set for a bumper crowd

After sealing the series victory over New Zealand by winning the first two tests in Hull and Liverpool, many would have been forgiven for thinking that the attendance for this Sunday’s final encounter between England and the Kiwis at Elland Road would suffer due to nothing riding on the game – but no.

Instead, the official England Rugby League twitter feed confirmed that further tickets have been put on sale in the East Stand Upper section of the Leeds United stadium, a move which could see the third test draw a record attendance. Last weekend’s 20-14 victory over the Kiwis drew a crowd of 26,234 to Anfield, the second best number for a test outside of London against New Zealand since 1951. Indeed, with the highest figure being 27,884 in 1998 in Bolton, this Sunday’s clash at Elland Road has already sold enough advance tickets to confirm that the match will replace that date in Bolton as the best attended international against the Kiwis outside of the capital.

This comes at a time when international rugby league is at something of a crossroads and, in the opinion of RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer, this test series has showed that there is serious interest in the game at this level. “The first two Tests have been a reminder of the value and appeal of international rugby league,” he told the media following the announcement of the opening of the East Stand Upper. “Millions of people have seen our England team earn two wins against the Kiwis and now we’re delighted that more people want to see the third Test in the flesh,” he added.

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On top of the world: Makinson wins Golden Boot

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St Helens’ winger Tommy Makinson has beaten competition from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, James Tedesco and England teammate Elliott Whitehead to win the rugby league Golden Boot award, cementing his place as one of the best try scorers in the game.

Approaching two hundred career matches for the Saints, 27-year-old Makinson scored eleven tries in 2018 and, in June, made his England debut in Denver, crossing for a try as Wayne Bennett’s team beat New Zealand. His international head coach admitted that he wasn’t aware of Makinson’s talents until this season and, when Ryan Hall was ruled out of the post-season test series with injury, he was given the chance to stake his claim for the vacant left wing berth – an opportunity he has taken with both hands.

After being a key part of the England team who edged the first test against New Zealand in Hull but, in the second at Anfield, he truly stole the show with a hat-trick. Three superb finishes sealed a series victory for Bennett’s men with a game to spare and, with just three international appearances to his name, Makinson seems to have cemented himself on the global scene of rugby league. “If you look at the three games he’s had for England, he’s been outstanding, absolutely outstanding,” Bennett explained.

His performances for St Helens throughout 2018 – both in defence and attack – helped Justin Holbrook’s team win the League Leaders’ Shield and reach the Challenge Cup semi finals.

In winning the award, Makinson has become just the fifth English winner of the prestigious Golden Boot award, following Kevin Sinfield (2012), Andy Farrell (2004), Garry Schofield (1990) and Ellery Hanley (1988) in winning the accolade.