Ronan Michael set to to be first native-Irish Super League player in over a decade
To say that Ronan Michael has had an up and down year would be a huge understatement. The Balbriggan-born rugby league player has had his dream built up and taken away in the last few months - more than even the most of us - and now, they might well come true as he looks set to become our first player to feature in the UK's elite rugby league competition for more than a decade.
Michael has been named in the Huddersfield Giants squad to face Wigan on the last day of the 2020 Super League season, and should he get on the park, he will be the first native-born Irish to play in the competition since Wicklow's Brian Carney retired in 2009.
"I've been waiting and thinking of this since I got to Huddersfield in June 2018," Ronan told LADbible Ireland. "It was an unimaginable dream two and a half years ago, but thanks to the opportunities I've been given, it's become a reality."
Michael has had a fair few ups and downs in 2020. At the start of the year, he got the chance to move to the Canberra Raiders and play in their setup in the toughest rugby league competition in the world, Australia's National Rugby League (NRL). But, like happened to so many of us, his dream was curtailed by COVID-19: the underage comp in which he was playing was cancelled and Ronan had to come home to Ireland.
"It has been a tough year for not just me but everyone in the world," says Ronan. "If someone had tossed up to me this time just over a year ago, when I signed a first team contract at the Giants, if I'd like to go experience an NRL under-20s set up and make my Super League debut that same year, I'd have said yes before they could finish their sentence. I feel lucky, although things didn't work out in Canberra because of coronavirus and I had to go back to Ireland and work for a bit, I am pleased with the end result now and feel lucky to have this chance."
Ronan managed to get a few games back his club in Ireland during the summer, playing for Longhorns RL as they picked up the Irish championship in September. Rugby league might not be as prominent as union in Ireland, but Michael's story is sure ot inspire others to take up the game.
"I picked up the game in Ireland after having my transfer from my hometown rugby union club to a better club denied by the branch that rules over underage rugby union," he told LAD. "I looked for alternatives to union then. I had heard of the NRL and rugby league but hadn't seen it being played in Ireland. After one training session. I just fell in love with it and it opened a doorway that was otherwise shut by union."
You can watch Ronan as Huddersfield take on Wigan Warriors tomorrow at 7.45pm on Sky Sports - and watch out for him featuring for Ireland in next year's World Cup in the UK.
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