Jamaica aim to create 'shockwave' at 2021 Rugby League World Cup
Coach Jermaine Coleman targeting quarter-finals spot for Reggae Warriors on their tournament debut in England in 2021
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 23/01/20 9:45am
Injuries prevented Jermaine Coleman from pulling on a Jamaica shirt during his playing days, but he will at least be involved when his ancestral homeland make their Rugby League World Cup bow next year.
London Skolars head coach Coleman also serves as lead coach for the Reggae Warriors and has been part of the set-up with Romeo Monteith for near-on six years, including the historic 2018 qualifying campaign for next year's global gathering in England.
Wins over Canada and 2013 quarter-finalists the USA in the Americas section saw the Jamaica team, which includes Super League players Ben Jones-Bishop, Michael Lawrence and Ashton Golding, clinch their spot at a World Cup for the first time.
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It is another sign of the steady progress the sport has made on the Caribbean island since the Jamaica Rugby League Association was founded in 2004 and Coleman is excited to be leading one of the 16 teams to have qualified for the 2021 World Cup.
"The game is growing back home, and it's getting bigger and bigger each year," Coleman said. "Us qualifying for the World Cup for the first time is an amazing achievement.
"It's been a massive journey and there have been lots of people putting in lots of hard work. To qualify was fantastic and to experience it in 2021 is going to be unreal.
"I think we've got a fantastic draw, we're excited about it and we feel we've got a chance to go there and create a bit of a shockwave in the community."
Preparations for next year's tournament have already begun, with Jamaica facing England Knights at Headingley last October. That day saw the Knights win 38-6, although Mason Caton-Brown's converted try gave the visitors something to cheer about.
Those preparations will step up both on these shores and the island with just under two years to go and the Jamaicans now know the challenges they will face when the World Cup gets underway.
The recent draw saw them placed in the same group as 2008 winners New Zealand, Ireland and Lebanon, with everything now seeming a lot more real for the players after seeing their name up there.
"I'm quite good as a person and take things in my stride, but there have been a number of comments and messages in the Jamaica group about how it's real and we're part of it," Coleman said.
"It's not just something we've done and then it's gone out of the window, everyone is really excited and there is a massive programme in place this year in England.
"Romeo is doing the same back on the island and it is an exciting time to be part of Jamaican rugby league and an exciting time for everyone involved.
"For me, watching the Haka live and being on the side of the pitch is going to be something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Jamaica are one of two debutants at the 2021 World Cup alongside Greece, who are in the same group as host nation England.
On the face of it, they are up against it in a group of more-established international teams. But Coleman will not settle for just being there to make up the numbers and it confident Jamaica have what it takes to reach the knock-out stages.
"Honestly, we want to get through to the quarter-finals," Coleman said. "We've been dealt a hand which gives us an opportunity to do that and we're excited about it.
"We know a lot of the Irish players and they know us, so that's a known quantity. Lebanon did fantastic in the last World Cup, so it will be interesting to see what NRL players they pick up and what they bring.
"New Zealand, we all know what they bring to the table, but we feel we are in a position and have enough quality in our group that we can make the quarter-finals.
"We'll be looking to get one or two wins and guarantee our spot in the next World Cup."