Wales Rugby League development manager Mark Jones made his long awaited return to Sierra Leone recently.
As part of a funded mentoring partnership, he spent a second, ten day stint promoting and coaching the sport in the country.
“I first travelled there in April 2013 as part of a fact-finding mission co-funded by the Welsh Assembly and UK Sport International,” he said on his return.
“Ten months after the project launch we received the go ahead for phase two of the project, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to revisit to impart as much knowledge as possible to Magnus O’Reilly Campbell, the community coach in the capital Freetown.”
Jones – who took over donated kit and balls– went into schools, colleges and clubs to help capitalise on the interest shown since his first visit.
“Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world and rugby league is the first full contact sport they have ever experienced. It was evident how much they adored the physicality and confrontation it provides.”
“A week’s continuous training with the Lions Warriors culminated on the last day with a full 13-a-side game. Refereeing, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratification as everyone’s hard work came to fruition in an outstanding match, the first of many to come,” he added.
“Each player was presented with a t-shirt and shorts kindly donated by Cardiff Spartans RLFC and Wales Rugby League. The captain was given training equipment, again donated by WRL, so they can continue to train in our absence.”
Jones went on to coach at three school, Ayoub International Junior School, the Grammar School – which is the highest ranked academic school in Sierra Leone – and Prince of Wales School, set on top of a mountain in the heart of Freetown.
He noted, “Magnus continued to grow in confidence as he spent more time delivering sessions on his own in both Creole and English.”
“During a trip where I did not touch a blade of grass, I left the country knowing the development of rugby league in Sierra Leone will continue. Magnus was given knowledge, equipment and resources to progress with the good work done and will be constantly supported by Wales Rugby League.”