The J squad
Did you know Jamaica has its own rugby league team? Bill Arthur went along to meet them.
Last Updated: 24/08/09 3:08pm
A big serving of mannish water sounds like just the right thing to have if you're preparing for a match.
The fact that mannish water is a spicy, thick, soup containing tripe, goat's feet and other tasty "bits" might put you off but it's what the Jamaican rugby league team were tucking into after their weekend training session in Leeds. That and a bit of curried goat.
The rugby league reggae boys are in the UK at the moment to learn more about the game and to take part in the Carnegie Floodlit Nines at Headingley on Wednesday night.
The squad is actually a blend of home-grown players from places like Kingston and Spanish Town alongside professionals and semi-pro players from the British game, so they're not all newcomers to the sport.
But for the Jamaica captain Roy Calvert and his fellow countrymen Brian Hutchinson, Robert Rodney and Edgar "Shrek" Herbine, it's a great opportunity to see some live rugby league, instead of watching it on the Sky Sports website or on a DVD.
The four arrived in the UK last week to join up with a group of British-based players of Jamaican descent to prepare for the Nines. And the rugby league new boys have already scored an impressive success.
While some clubs might be struggling to land a big-name sponsor the Jamaican Rugby League have managed to lure Sir Richard Branson back into supporting the game, with his Virgin Atlantic company sponsoring their team for this trip.
The Jamaicans are coached by Dean Thomas from the Sheffield Eagles and he has back-up from former Great Britain legend Des Drummond, who gave the squad a workout at the Prince Philip Centre in Leeds when they got together for the first time.
It's 27 years since Des ran the 100 metres in 10.85 seconds on the Superstars show and, at 51, he still looks lean, fit and capable of giving the younger generation a run for their money.
Des told Boots n All that he never thought he'd see the day when a Jamaican team would play on the rugby league field and the J squad hopes to take it further than a nine-a-side tournament.
They want to build on the current six-team competition they have back in the Caribbean and start playing full internationals. Negotiations are underway for a game in the USA later this year and it's hoped that more players with Jamaican ancestry will want to get involved.
The J squad are making the most of their short visit to the UK. They were at the Championship One game between Keighley and Hunslet at the weekend, they're going to Wembley and they also got involved in the Connecting Communities initiative in Leeds.
The squad went along to the Mandela Centre on Chapeltown Road to see the youngsters of RJC Dance group preparing for this weekend's Leeds West Indian Carnival.
It doesn't take much to persuade a group of players to make an exhibition of themselves and pretty soon Roy Calvert and his team mates were up on the floor winding their bodies alongside the kids.
All that dancing certainly worked up an appetite so then it was off to Marcia's Caribbean Takeaway on Chapeltown Road which is where the mannish soup came into it, along with the rice and peas, curried goat, aki and saltfish and the yam dumplings.
It certainly beats bake beans on toast as a pre-match meal. Mind you, mannish soup is supposed to have special qualities which can enhance another type of performance. But that's really not for this particular website.