The Jamaica Rugby League Association on the back of their historic berth to the World Cup in 2021 have sought to answer the clamouring made by local females for inclusivity in playing the game. As such the JRLA have appointed Antonio Baker as Director of Female Rugby League and Tarja Richards as Assistant Director.
Mr. Baker is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Counselling and Social Work at the Mico University College and is the Dean of Discipline and Rugby League Head Coach at The Cedar Grove Academy, where he introduced Open Age Girls Tag Rugby as well as u19, u16 and u14 School Boys Rugby League. He has also sought to involve a number of girls from other schools such as: Ascot High, Old Harbour High, and B.B. Coke into getting into Tag Rugby League.
According to Baker:
“There is an audible call for the females to play Rugby League in our schools, colleges’ community clubs and at the international level. We must therefore chart a course for them that allows for sustainable growth and the development of the requisite skills needed to play Rugby League.”
Mr. Baker acknowledges that Tag Rugby League is less aggressive but sees it as an avenue for getting more females involved in the sport to learn and develop the requisite skills, after which they can be filtered into the community programmes that will be established.
Baker continued , “This is a great undertaking but if we remain objective, realistic and keep improving the sport at the grassroots then with the athleticism of our females, we’ll be up and running in no time.”
Currently, Mr. Baker and his team are in talks with the Sports master from Caribbean Maritime University to develop a female Kingston based community team while deliberations are also ongoing on with other stakeholders in St. Catherine to develop a second team.
“There is no shortage of what Jamaica can achieve on the world stage, what is important is that the correct mechanisms be put in place to evaluate the programmes and initiatives, implemented” said Baker.
When asked what was his vision for Female Rugby League in the next five years. Mr. Baker responded:
“Too have at least four community clubs being actively involved in playing Rugby League as well as to move from Tag Rugby League in the schools to full contact Rugby League, with an expansion in the number of schools that participate.”