Ronan Michael - Ireland
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your current rugby life?
My name is Ronan Michael. I am a 22-year-old professional rugby league player playing at York City Knights in the Championship - on loan from Huddersfield Giants. I am from Balbriggan, County Dublin, in Ireland.
I would like to continue to represent Ireland and have a long, successful international and club level career. I want to continue to help grow the game back home until it is on a recognisable level like many other sports in Ireland.
What has been your rugby journey up until now?
Growing up in Ireland, I started off playing rugby union and grew up playing from a young age. My heroes growing up were Sonny Bill Williams and Brian O’Driscoll. Sonny Bill was a massive inspiration to me as he could play all codes.
In 2017 I made the change over to rugby league after taking a year out of the sport. I played a handful of games in Ireland before getting the opportunity in 2018 to come over to Huddersfield Giants on trial with their academy.
I made my Super League debut in 2020, being the first homegrown Irish player (raised in Ireland and coming through the domestic system) to do so since Brian Carney. It was one of the highlights of my career. I have been very lucky with the opportunities I received but moving to a different country on my own as a 17-year-old was difficult. Luckily, I have a great family back home supporting me and I have enjoyed my time in England over the past four years.
One of my favourite memories of my journey so far was my first Senior Ireland cap, getting to play in front of my family in Dublin and beating Scotland.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with any of the photos?
I tried capture the day-to-day life of a professional rugby league player. The photos in our team camp in Rochdale meant a lot, as it was the first time getting together as a team since qualification in 2019. It had been three years! This is a new era of Irish Rugby League.
The team gathering with Head Coach Ged Corcoran and Assistant Joe O’Callaghan addressing the whole Ireland team illustrates just how far our organisation has come since I became involved at senior level in 2018. It sparks excitement in me for what is to come in the future.
There is a photo of Joe Porter and Brendan O’Hagan from a York City away trip to Whitehaven - a great away win for us. I get to listen to Brendo and Ports tell terrible jokes every away day. Regardless, you always look back fondly on the trips away, especially after a win.
What does rugby league and playing for Ireland mean to you?
Playing for my country means the world to me. I get to represent my family and friends back home and help forge a path for more people coming through in Ireland as the sport grows. I love putting on that jersey and running out with the lads and it is my favourite time of the entire year when the internationals come around. The last few years with Covid have made me even more excited for getting back in camp and being around everyone again!
What role does rugby league play in your community and country?
Where I am from, rugby league is only a developing game. But it is great to see when I get home to Balbriggan that more and more people have a knowledge of the game, and the sport is growing. I think rugby league can play a massive role in Irish sport, helping young players see another route into professional sport with an alternative code.
There are great developments being made at grassroots level. The two clubs nearest to me are my former club Longhorns and Loughshinny Foxes. To see how far the game has come since I moved to England in 2018 is outstanding!
What do you think the future looks like for rugby league after the RLWC? What would you like to change?
The future is bright. The sport is building momentum. It is exciting on a world scale, and I would love to see the international game more prioritised like it is in union. We have a great spectacle, and it should be played worldwide. I would love to see a competitive UK and Ireland league with England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland all involved and the game really developing away from England in the other nations.