AN UNLIKELY Test match at Wakefield could be the start of big things for rugby league in the Carribean.
That’s the prediction of team manager Glenn Morrison as Jamaica prepare to take on Wales at Belle Vue, Wakefield, tomorrow (7.30pm).
The game is officially a Wales home fixture and has been arranged to help their campaign to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
But Morrison – whose team beat a domestic Ireland side 68-16 in Bray last weekend – reckons it is also crucial to the development of rugby league on the sunshine island.
“They wanted to get some games over here, to hopefully get some good results, rise up the international rankings and get more exposure and development for the game back in Jamaica,” Morrison explained.
“We want the game to continue to grow over there and hopefully try to qualify for the World Cup.
“They’ve missed out on this [next year’s] one, but hopefully they can qualify for the one after that.”
Jamaica has had its own domestic competition since 2005, but the current touring squad is made up of players from Kingstone Press Championship and League One clubs.
Players in line to face Wales tomorrow include Hunslet Hawks’ Danny Thomas, Richie Barnett and Mo Agoro; Danny Bravo, Alex Brown and Wayne Reittie from Batley Bulldogs and Joel Farrell, who will join Batley next season from Morrison’s club Dewsbury Rams.
Morrison is an Australian who has lived in this country since joining Bradford Bulls in 2007. So how did the former Wakefield Trinity Wildcats player and assistant-coach become involved with Jamaica?
“Romeo [Monteith, the Jamaica Rugby League Association’s director of rugby] rang me and said a few of the players had spoken about me getting involved and what I could do coaching-wise,” Morrison said.
“We’ve put a full set-up together, Jermaine Coleman and Lee St Hilaire are assistant-coaches and it has gone from there.
“I’m in charge of everything in the UK, coaching and management. It came a bit out of the blue, but I want to try and help these countries get a bit more exposure and development and if we can keep raising the game over there it is going to be good for the game in general.
“I am excited to get involved. It is tough, but I think we’ll see the fruits of our labour in a few years.”
The win in Ireland was an impressive start to the tour, but Morrison knows Wales – who beat Serbia 50-0 in a World Cup qualifier last Saturday – will be on a different level.
“We’ve had them at Dewsbury doing three or four sessions over the last couple of months,” Morrison said of Jamaica’s preparations.
“We took them to Ireland and had an outstanding victory over there.
“We know Friday will be a lot tougher, Wales will have a strong side out, but we got a lot out of last week.
“The boys are buzzing and we’re excited to get the game on.”
Morrison added: “We haven’t got anything to lose, we just want to make sure we put in a good performance.
“We want to be competitive and keep working on what we did last weekend. We put some structures in place which the boys stuck to and if we can be competitive, hopefully they will do themselves proud.”