By Sean Devers
National Rugby Captain Jamal Angus was born on January 5, 1994 to former National Cricket Captain Jerry Angus and Diane George and attended St Christopher Nursery, Tucville Primary and the Bishops’ High.
Jamal who said he didn’t even know about rugby until he was 16 or 17 represented Guyana in the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association U-19 Championships in 2013 when Guyana were runners up.
The talented Angus made his National senior debut for Guyana in May, 2014 against Barbados in Barbados.
With just over 11 National caps he was appointed Captain of the National 15s team for their clash with defending champions and host Cayman Islands on February 9, 2019 in a Rugby North Americas (RAN) eliminator match.
But it was an inauspicious Captaincy debut for the 26-year-old as Guyana’s only win of the tournament was a 17-12 victory over the T&T. In the Plate Final, Guyana were once against beaten by the Cayman Islands 10-21 as they finished sixth among the eight teams.
Later in the year, Guyana’s senior men’s 7s lost 59-nil to Brazil and 87-7 to Chile in their Pool A matches at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru after losing 62-nil to USA in their first game.
Angus was the only player to breach the try line in the Chile game with Godfrey Broomes scoring the other two points.
Angus joined his father who led Guyana in Cricket in 1988, as a rare father, son pair to lead Guyana’s senior teams in different sports.
Jamal feels a good leader should be able to inspire, to communicate effectively with their team in sports and life, people and respond differently to tone.
“A good leader must be able to discern which type of communication their ranks respond positively to. Some players are motivated by shouting and some by a soft word in their ear. They should also lead by example.”
“I was interested in cricket at first but never pursued it at any higher level than school cricket or recreationally. I fancied myself an all-rounder but I don’t think I was exceptional in either aspect. I honestly didn’t even know about rugby until I was about 16-17, had no idea Guyana’s team was such a dominant force,” said Jamal.
Guyana won Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens Championship seven times, as recent as 2016 and reached the finals in 2017 and 2018 where they lost to Jamaica both times.
In school like any other Guyanese child, Jamal played cricket and football. He also played volleyball and a bit of basketball; which was his worst sport. Jamal played cricket in school in a few matches.
“Growing up, life was great for me. I can’t think of many complaints. I was always surrounded by a loving family who always did an excellent job providing for me.
My father moved away while I was very young, but would always support me. My mother, Aunts Denise and Beatrice played a major role in my development.
My aunt Denise was a teacher so she took the role of educator and disciplinarian,” disclosed Jamal, who has represented
Guyana in Rugby in Trinidad, Barbados, Mexico, Colombia, Cayman Islands and Peru.
Jamal said most of his most memorable holidays were spent in Essequibo with his late grandparents and cousins and still remembers his grandfather towing three or four of his grandkids to Capoey Lake for bush cooks.
“I wouldn’t call rugby in Guyana a career per se but I decided to really follow it up after a few training sessions with my current club coach Laurence Adonis.
I had been playing other sports but to a very limited level, I just saw rugby being played one day and it intrigued me, so I asked for a run.
After a few sessions with the Panthers Rugby Club formerly the UG Wolves, I fell in love with the sport and the rest is history,” Jamal informed.
“While my National senior team debut in Barbados was a victorious outing, I have mixed emotions about that game. I came off the bench in the late stages of the game and received a silly yellow card for repeated team infringements. I could still recall the referee saying ‘I’m sorry, I know you just came on, but you’ve got to go,” Jamal lamented.
“My favourite sportsman is Cristiano Ronaldo because he once played for my favourite club, Manchester United. A naturally gifted player, he is noted as one of the hardest training players and that resonates with me because I have never seen myself as the most talented player but through hard work I have developed a great deal,” noted Jamal who said in the 15s format his main
position is wing-forward aka flanker, but added that he has also played a few games at centre.
“My most memorable moment playing for Guyana thus far has to be my home debut versus Barbados where we won convincingly and I scored two tries. It was memorable because it was my first National game seen by my family and friends, it meant so much to have them supporting,” remembered Jamal.
“The standard of rugby in Guyana can be juxtaposed to the rest of the Caribbean and the region, once looking at it from output and achievements.
While there may be clear disparities in the aforementioned comparison when it comes to preparation, standard is premised on achievements.
However, the standard of youth rugby is less than what is desired and below what the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) expects,” stated Jamal, who plays as a ‘hooker or prop’ in the 7s format.
“Nevertheless, with the new dispensation of the GRFU, being headed by the competence of Ryan Dey, plans are already crafted to catapult the standard. So maybe within a year after rugby restarts in the country, we should be seeing the results.
Local rugby development has practically been in the backseat of the GRFU over the past decade. That is not to say nothing has not been done.”
Jamal continued, “Laurence Adonis has been pushing youth development and has over the years been virtually responsible solely, for all of the youths that were elevated to national seniors in the past six years.
However, rugby facilities are non-existent. Rugby players since 2016, have been squatting on the Athletic field as the rugby pitch in the National Park has been under “stagnant development” since then.
The rugby restrooms in the Park are in a deplorable state; unreliable water and power supply. More is definitely needed for rugby to explode,” claimed Jamal.
“Apart from rugby I enjoy watching and participating in sports especially volleyball which is also close to my heart, cooking, I’ve been told I make a mean lasagna and macaroni and cheese. I really enjoy hanging out with my friends,” he said.
“In the past we had teams on all levels but that has gone a bit haywire. We have a semblance of an U19 team but it’s mainly senior. Our new body has pinpointed the lack of youth rugby as a major aspect they plan to tackle.
The sport is largely limited to Georgetown sadly, which limits our talent pool. Our new president Mr. Ryan Dey has stated it is a matter he intends to address. Sadly, as dominant as rugby is, it is not given enough recognition in Guyana generally,” Jamal feels.
Jamal says that there is no way a player could make a living from just playing rugby in Guyana.
“Biggest challenge for most of our players is just being able to practice properly, most of our players go to school, work or do both and many of the guys have families to take care of and as much as we love the sport it has no financial benefit for us as players, yet it comes with many risks attached, many times players are left to choose between job security and training time. I cannot and will not ask players to sacrifice their livelihoods for rugby.
My one wish for the development of rugby in Guyana is to have a high standard training and game facility. One of the hardest parts of our job is being asked to produce world class performances and results, while being hampered by substandard training facilities,” Jamal bemoaned.
“Playing rugby in Guyana is very difficult because the players face more ridicule than celebration. We are more likely to be bashed when we lose than celebrated when we win, although it is part of the job that doesn’t make it any less difficult to take. I would like the public to know that losing hurts us more than they could imagine. I would also like to guarantee them that any team representing our flag does so with pride,” noted Jamal.
Jamal said the main people who have helped him are his family.
“I’ve been raised with love and they have done their best to steer me down the right paths. My family has always provided for me, scolded me when I needed it and stood up for me when necessary. I have never been short of food, clothing or shelter and I owe it all to the women in my life. Laurie Adonis my coach also played a big part along with my team. He was out there keeping us out of trouble and on the right path. In my rugby club we’ve taught each other how to be honest with ourselves, we call out each other on mistakes and have learnt to accept responsibility for those mistakes,” Jamal added.
“Like most sports around the world the pandemic has brought a halt to competitions and our preparation. The 2020 RAN men 15s, women’s 10s and U-19 competitions have all been cancelled by the governing body.
Our coach and President have highlighted the areas that we should work on and have highlighted necessary exercises to help,” said Jamal.
“In this time, I would encourage all rugby players to try their best to keep fit and active for some the motivation may be lacking but we must persevere. I would also encourage them to learn more about the game, read up on the laws, watch more games to get a better understanding of the interpretation of those laws. They should also occupy free time gainfully. I wish them and their families health and safety in these troubling times,” Jamal advised.
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