I began playing rugby when I was seven years old at Illingworth RLFC. Before that I had no idea what rugby was as I’d never heard of it, but I thought I’d give it a go and LOVED IT!! My passion for the game has led on to a fantastic career at Bradford Bulls and Keighley Cougars, with an amazing experience playing for Jamaica in between. Rugger Ratz has given me a new focus, where I can teach my own children and other keen kids all the skills they’ll need to set them up with a positive, confident approach to sport that will hopefully last them throughout their lives.
My rugby history
I started playing rugby aged seven at Illingworth RLFC, where I learned all about the game until I was 14. Then I moved to King Cross under 15s. While there I was scouted by Halifax Blue Sox and signed up to do their scholarship programme. I signed to join the Academy Team at age 16 and made my professional debut for the first team when I was 19. I learned so much during those years – the rules, how to play as a team, the joy of winning and the pain of losing! Shortly afterwards, I was sent on loan to Super League’s London Harlequins team and experienced rugby full-time. Although the experience was fantastic, I missed my family and friends and returned home at the end of the season. Family is very important to me and one of the reasons I love rugby so much is because it’s like one big happy family!
I remained at Halifax for one more season, during which time I went on loan to Rochdale Hornets for just a few months. In 2007 I signed with Bradford Bulls and, after the first season, received the Academy’s Players’ Player award. The following season I was honored to be asked to take position as the Academy Captain and enjoyed another great season, at the end of which I received the Coach’s and Players’ Player award, all of which I display proudly at home!
Playing for Jamaica
During the excitement, and to top off a fantastic year, I was approached by the head coach for the new Jamaican RL team and asked if I would like to represent my family’s heritage by playing against the big USA team in Jacksonville, Florida. Of course I jumped at the chance, and what an experience! It was awesome! When I returned I realised that I was not getting any closer to a first team debut with Bradford Bulls and although I loved being captain of the academy team, I felt I needed to move on.
I was given a contract with Featherstone Rovers and enjoyed a number of first team appearances but unfortunately sustained a serious knee injury which resulted in surgery. I struggled to regain fitness and consistently struggled with the recurring pain, which resulted in a second operation on the same knee.
Rugger Ratz – my turn to coach
It was during my time with Featherstone Rovers that Joleene (now my wife) approached me with the idea of setting up our own business. She came up with the awesome idea whilst desperately searching for a rugby class suitable for our son Tyreese who was only two at the time. Frustrated with not finding anywhere that catered for his age locally, she suggested that I gain my coaching qualifications and set up some classes myself with her business support. So I did! I gained my qualifications whilst Joleene did all the business side and, as soon as our second son was born in the summer of the same year, Rugger Ratz was formed. As a result of the operations I made the difficult decision to take a year out of rugby to rest my knee fully and regain fitness. It allowed me to concentrate on Rugger Ratz, plus we got married that winter but, in my typical fashion, I just couldn’t stay away from rugby and trained with Halifax RLFC without contract to keep my hand in, and I used the opportunity to gradually regain strength.
Back to full fitness
I felt fantastic and returned to America to play for Jamaica in the World Cup qualifiers in October 2011 in Philadelphia. We won against South Africa but unfortunately lost against the much more experienced USA team, meaning we did not qualify into the World Cup. This was a big shame but the experience again was unreal.
On my return I was contacted by the coach Jason Demetriu, who asked if I would like to play for the newly promoted Keighley Cougars. I had friends that played there and they always boasted about how they take care of the players, so I jumped at the chance. I now have a regular first team position and rugby is going well, as is Rugger Ratz!