In 2017, James Burke who represented Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games commited suicide at home in Leeds and his Mum has since released a book covering her experiences ahead of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup scheduled for later this year.
‘In my Defence - Life After Suicide: The things no one tells you, but they should!’ By Sharon Burke was published in January and the author has won widespread praise on social media for her bravery on releasing a guide on such a tough subject.
In one chapter Sharon writes about living life on repeat, the hundreds of rugby matches she has attended, times she stood in the cold, the rain and the blazing sunshine. The moments when James would run over to collect his drink from her at the end of matches before trotting off to the changing rooms, replaying every second and desperately trying to spot the exact moment when things went wrong.
“I was born in Hunslet so there was only one game! From the age of two we lived about half a mile from the Original Parkside ground. The Heron brothers, Sonny Nickle and so on were people we grew up with.” Sharon told RLFANS on how she got involved in the game.
The mental health author also got involved during the formative days of Jamaica Rugby League through Dean Thomas, the Caribbeans Islands first ever head coach who led Reggae Warriors to their debut against the USA in 2009. Sharon raised funds, helped sort arrangements for their UK Games/Visits and even visited Jamaica herself in 2006. Most of the staff who worked at the hotel where Sharon was staying were not aware of the world's greatest sport but she credits Romeo Monteith for working so hard and spreading the word since.
It was during 2003 whilst Romeo was volunteering at the Jamaica Rugby Union offices when an email came through from the UK with a pitch to develop the game on the Island. When things weren’t going well for Paul, the Rugby Union 7s coach at the time, he started to put in some serious work developing a second code in Jamaica which has since grown from strength to strength with domestic leagues, high school championships with girls and boys teams participating plus a women's national team alongside the mens.
However, the biggest achievement Jamaica Rugby League had was qualifying for the Rugby League World Cup at their second attempt which James didn’t live to see.
James-Woodburn Hall, Halifax Panthers and Jamaica international dedicated the victory to The James Burke Foundation wrote on Facebook:
"What an experience it has been, being afforded the privilege to represent Jamaica the country of my mums heritage and for us as a group to go on and make history by qualifying for the World Cup! Words will never explain how much this means to myself, us as a group and the Island! 2021 I cannot wait! Would also like to mention the James Burke foundation and Sharon Burke who’s son James represented Jamaica in his lifetime, his memory lives on within the team and we did this for him! #JBF"
Sharon Burke has been on a difficult journey since James took his life but the rugby league community could do so much more to give her platforms. You can buy Sharon's book from Amazon.
An Article by Damon Cooper