They dominate the running track, they managed to win over the world with their bobsleigh, now Jamaica are looking to create a ‘legacy’ at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.

The Reggae Warriors qualified for their first major tournament at the third attempt by beating United States 16-10 in Jacksonville on November 17 in the Americas Championship.

Plumstead’s Joseph Brown captained the side in qualification and says Jamaica’s latest showing on the world stage will give him, and his team-mates, the opportunity to showcase the benefits of rugby league on youth today.

“2021, nations will wake up and see what Jamaica Rugby League is all about,” said Brown, 31.

“We want to be competitive, but we want to leave a legacy more than anything.”

Jamaican Legacy

Brown, who plays for Newcastle Thunder and qualifies for the Caribbean island through his father, says the legacy he wishes to leave is the message that rugby league offers unity and opportunity.

“It instils discipline, respect, but also family.

“I’m proud to be from Plumstead, I’m a South-East kid and know the dangers. I just want the kids to know there’s other options out there, rugby league could be for them, so give it a try.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who are athletes in London who haven’t been exposed to rugby league.

“Through the sport I’ve made a good bunch of friends who kept me on the straight and narrow. It gives young people an opportunity they might not have had.

“I know my dad, but like so many households in London it was just me and my mum growing up. The sport allowed me to concentrate on something positive.”

Growing up playing rugby union at Orpington and Blackheath, Brown made the switch to league after his mother saw an advert looking for players at Sutcliffe Park. Stints at Greenwich Admirals and a scholarship at London Broncos followed before Brown settled in Newcastle where he’s played over 200 games and captains the side.

Brown conceded that he didn’t make the grade to represent England but leading Jamaica is the biggest honour.

“Once I put that Jamaican shirt on, I’d never turn my back on them. We are all proud of our heritage.

“Now, we’ve taken the team to a level where lads with mixed heritage can choose to play for Jamaica over England if they wish.

“That’s the legacy.”

History in the Making

The Jamaica RL was founded in 2004 and has been largely self-funded ever since. Having failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2013 and 2017, reaching the 2021 competition is seen as ‘one biggest underdog stories going’ according to Brown. The father of two says the effects from the success they’ve had can already be seen both in the UK and in Jamaica.

“We all had to pay for our flights to the US. So to go to their back-yard and get the result was incredible.

“For a country like Jamaica, who don’t have the facilities, the coaching or the resources to teach the sport, it’s truly amazing. There’s no rugby league pitch there, they train on football pitches.

“Now, thanks to qualifying, we’re slowly seeing change.”

Groups have yet to be decided for the event taking place in October and November 2021, but Brown admitted that the dream scenario would be to be drawn in a pool with England.

“I’m a realist and it’ll be tough but if we got England, it would be massive, that would bring so many fans out in support for Jamaica.

“With the Jamaican community in England I think Jamaica will be the second best supported team in the competition without a doubt.”