Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Photo by Mark Millward
Ronan Michael may only be 20-years-old; however, he has already played Rugby League in three different countries, which includes time spent in both the Super League and NRL youth systems, not to mention he has represented his native country of Ireland on the international stage.
In 2019, Michael joined the Huddersfield Giants academy, and at the start of this year was training with the first team, before an uncommon loan deal occurred that saw Michael on his way to the 2019 NRL runners-up the Canberra Raiders, where he would play for the club’s Jersey Flegg side.
Unfortunately, not long into his time at the Canberra, Michael moved back to Ireland as a result of the current pandemic, although he would play Rugby League again in 2020.
The All Ireland competition was soon back up and running, with Michael returning to the Longhorns RL.
While Michael still had to get back into playing shape following the COVID break, he was able to do so with relative ease.
“It hasn’t been too hard to get back playing during COVID. I kept my training up during lockdown with the minimal weights and stuff that I had back home in Ireland,” he told Everything Rugby League.
“When I arrived back I wouldn’t say I was unfit but no matter what you do away from rugby you have to allow yourself a transition to get back used to full-time training. All that aside I actually found the time away from training a good chance to stay fit and try some things in the gym while away from the season.”
Since returning to Ireland, Michael has been able to further soak in the country’s growing Rugby League culture and believes that Irish born players, like himself, have the potential to make it big in the sport.
“I personally think the growth potential of Rugby League in Ireland could be massive. The amount of Rugby Union players being let go from professional development setups, alongside talented Hurlers and Gaelic footballers, provides a good platform to start picking up athletes and teaching them Rugby League.
“Dublin would be a hotspot for tourism and rugby league expansion as well. There aren’t many rugby league fans who wouldn’t love to go to Dublin and most I’ve talked to have been already. It is clearly an untapped market and I feel would generate a lot more interest and revenue than most teams. With the capital only being a 40-minute flight and the planes running like buses from Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, as well as the Ferry, it far easier for teams and fans to do a day trip or a weekend for very little cost.
“All in all the game is 100% developing in Ireland with the Longhorns being the leaders in domestic development. I feel with a few more bridges being built between Irish rugby league clubs and Super League academy’s, Ireland as a country have the potential to provide some very talented players to the game.”
Looking towards the future he accepts that he will likely not get the opportunity at the Canberra Raiders in 2021 that he was supposed to have this season, although a new chance presents itself next year, as Michael looks to make his Super League debut for the Huddersfield Giants.
“I would love to head back to the Raiders as I really enjoyed my time there, at the minute it doesn’t seem realistic with the pandemic and everything happening in the world. My sole focus is at Huddersfield Giants right now and working toward my Super League debut.
“I learned a lot when I was with the Raiders and I feel it gave me a huge opportunity to develop as a player and come back to Huddersfield better for it.”
After a strong start to the season, the Huddersfield Giants currently sit in sixth place on the Super League table and will be eager to give Ronan Michael a chance to prove himself next year.