Reggae warrior Michael Lawrence bursts with pride ahead of Rugby Union World Cup
ASK ANY Rugby League fan and they will tell you: Michael Lawrence is a modern sports legend. With over 300 appearances for his home club, the Huddersfield Giants, Lawrence has established himself as one of the most consistent and capable strikers in the Super League.
This fall, he will make history again when he represents Jamaica at this year’s Rugby Union World Cup. Despite everything he has achieved, Lawrence says this is the pinnacle of his career.
“All I ever wanted was to represent Jamaica, my family and my family’s legacy,” he told the Voice of Sport. “When Jamaica qualified for the World Cup in 2018, my eyes were firmly on it. I had a lot of individual accolades, but when I told my parents I was going to play for the Jamaica at a World Cup the pride that overwhelmed them was something I had never seen before and gave me one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. huge.
Lawrence and his fellow Reggae Warriors met for a two-day training camp in Leeds earlier this month. He says confidence is brewing among the players as their opening clash with Ireland on Sunday 24 October draws ever closer.
“We are really confident to go and participate in this tournament,” he said. “We believe that the quality of the player we have recruited can make us very competitive. We are not here to make up numbers or to be a gimmick. We will give the best of ourselves and compete.
In addition to his efforts on the pitch, Lawrence is one of the most powerful voices in the rugby league.
In February 2021, he joined RFL’s new Inclusion Council, which aims to make sport more open and diverse. He says the World Cup is the perfect opportunity for the rugby league to show how united it can be.
“My work with the Inclusion Board started on lockdown last year and after the terrible tragedy of George Floyd’s death,” he continues.
“We decided in the Super League that we wanted to say something when the competition restarted last summer. Me and some of my teammates did a great interview for Sky Sports and while there was a lot of positive feedback, there was also a whole bunch of negative reactions.
“We knew from the start that we couldn’t stop there and that more had to be done. Alex Simmons and a few others came up with the Tackle It action plan designed to make the rugby league more inclusive and diverse.
“When that was set up, a board was announced to oversee it and I volunteered to sit on the board and got one of the spots.
“Since I joined, we have had many meetings and many things are being put in place to make the rugby league more inclusive.
“I see the World Cup as a huge opportunity and a platform to show how diverse the rugby league can be with all of these different backgrounds and cultures coming together.”
The RFL has come under fire in recent weeks for the way it has handled racism in sport, particularly after the eight-game ban on Tony Clubb of Wigan Warriors following his use of “unacceptable language based on national or ethnic origin “during a match in late April.
Lawrence believes that there are many things the sport can do to effect change. “I think education is the key,” he stresses. “Often you find in these situations that there are misunderstandings. If you talk to someone and educate them, then they will have a better understanding and may change their mind.
“I am also convinced that this problem can only be tackled from the top down. Leaders of organizations and teams have to push the agenda from the top and after that everyone will follow. This is the key to change.
With less than 130 days to kick off the tournament, Lawrence wants people, rugby league fans or not, to book their places, especially to see the Jamaican Thirteen in action.
“Go to every game you can,” he smiles. “It’s a great show. Try to get to one of our games, especially the one from Ireland. My family is all Jamaican and my wife is Irish so we will definitely be having a party during this one! ”
For tickets and more information on this year’s Rugby World Cup, visit www.rlwc2021.com.
To learn more about the work Michael and his colleagues do on RFL’s Inclusion Council, visit www.rugby-league.com/governance/inclusion-&-diversity/tackle-it.