Oliver Roberts has called for a professional team to be established in Ireland after receiving a heart-warming letter from a young supporter.
The Huddersfield ace received a letter from 15-year-old Shane, a massive Rugby League supporter from County Kerry, who told him that he was his favourite player.
However, Roberts was left dismayed as he continued to read the letter, with the youngster telling him that he can’t play the sport he loves as there are no local clubs, so he has to play rugby union instead.
The youngster went on to say that he couldn’t watch Ireland play in the World Cup as they weren’t shown on BBC Ireland and he didn’t “have the channels,” but spoke of his hope that the proposed Six Nations tournament takes place so he can fulfil his dream of seeing a game live.
Shane wrote: “I love following Rugby but unfortunately I don’t play it as there isn’t any clubs near-by. I do play Rugby Union though.
“I hope there is a Six Nations this year because it would be a great chance to see a match live at the ground.”
There are currently just ten active amateur clubs in Ireland as funding, participation and organisation of clubs proves to be an ongoing problem.
But Roberts, a star performer for Ireland in the World Cup, believes that could change drastically if the RFL welcomed a professional team in Ireland.
“I keep saying that Ireland needs a team in League 1,” he said.
“It one thousand percent needs to happen. Who knows what could happen, it would certainly help it grow and maybe even make it parallel to rugby union.
“There are so many lads playing rugby union out there, and when they don’t make the cut they just give up. It’s rubbish because they could have a crack at Rugby League.
“Rugby League isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. You need people involved who have the money to fund it and the time to market it properly. Toronto have done things right and have helped grow the game in Canada. We should be looking to do that everywhere.”
Four players from Longhorns, one of Ireland’s amateur clubs, recently trained with the Huddersfield Giants, and Roberts believes there is huge potential for players to emerge from the Emerald Isle.
“We had four young lads from Ireland come over for some experience, they were 17 and built like the side of a house.
“The market in Ireland for players who go under the radar or don’t make the cut in union is massive. There are so many missed opportunities out there. They could transfer to Rugby League which would be great.”