Michael first Irish-born Super League player for 11 years

by Gazette Reporter

Balbriggan’s Ronan Michael became the first Irish-born person to play in rugby league’s Super League since 2009 when he lined out for Huddersfield Giants against Wigan last Friday night. 

It continued his remarkable rise up the ranks having only taken up the code by chance five years ago. 

At 16, Michael missed out on a spot in the Leinster north-east development panel. To progress his game, he sought an ill-fated move from his home club, Balbriggan, to Clontarf but the local regulations required a year-out. 

During that time, his parents rang around to see what other options were out there, stumbling on what turned out to be Irish Under-17 rugby league trials. 

He was quickly incorporated into that setup but still had precious little game time before Huddersfield offered him a chance. While the invite was there, he had to stump up for the airfare himself but he was not willing to let the shot slip him by. 

At that stage, he had only played eight games of league but the Giants saw enough raw talent to give him a shot and he progressed enough to land a first team deal this time last year. 

To build up his game-time, Huddersfield arrange an overseas loan deal with Canberra Raiders in Australia but those plans soon went askew. 

“I’ve only been around it for three years so I jumped at it to go over to Australia and an NRL setup and live over there.” he told Dublin Gazette

“I went over in January and the plan was to be back in October for the off season.  

“Corona had its own plans and I came back mid-March when things got really bad. The Super League was cancelled, the NRL was cancelled. 

“No one really knew what the world would look like or when sport would be back. It was such a strange time. Looking back, I could have stayed in Canberra but you are looking at your family back home.  

“The staff there thought it would be better if I came back because no one knew. Hindsight is a killer but we didn’t know things would get back to normal quicker than expected [over there].” 

He spent the summer working in a variety of different jobs – window-cleaning, power-washing and guttering – not knowing when he could get back to Huddersfield. 

With the logistics involved, he eventually returned six weeks later than his contemporaries with a number of his youth colleagues getting opportunities to line out. 

 As such, he thought he would have to bide his time further but last Friday’s opportunity was a dream come true and one he hopes will be the first of many. 

“I didn’t expect to be in Huddersfield this year and definitely didn’t expect to make my debut but when I did arrive back, I knew game time was my goal for this season, regardless of what happens. 

“I don’t remember too much because I was that excited, a surreal feeling. You go into that fight or flight mode. 

“You train for those moments when you are not thinking that much and are going on instinct, catching the ball and carrying it. It was a class moment and really enjoyed it.”

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