Chile determined to claw their way back in rugby league

Chile determined to claw their way back in rugby league

AFTER bursting onto the international rugby league scene, only to be humbled several times in the space of a year, South American pioneers Chile are determined to claw their way back.

And the Weichafes, the first Latin American side to contest a World Cup qualifier, are calling on their full contingent of eligible players to stand up and show what the nation is capable of at top strength.

The Chileans suffered heavy defeats to both the USA and Canada at the 2018 Americas Championships in Jacksonville, then relinquished their Latino Nines title to El Salvador in Sydney less than 12 months later.

However, at both events the Chileans only had roughly 50 per cent of their best players to select from, with others unavailable for a variety of reasons.

RFL13 Chile director and national coach Rodrigo Millar said identifying players of elite ability who were eligible, either residing in Chile or of Chilean heritage, was still an imperfect science.

“We would like to develop a comprehensive database of all those born in Chile or with parents or grandparents from Chile, who have experience in rugby league,” Millar said.

“I would like to send an invitation to those who have been unavailable before, or unsure of whether to nominate, to raise their hands.

“Obviously developing home-grown talent is our path to a successful future, but to give a true account of our nation’s capabilities, we also need to utlilise the cream of what’s available.”

After first contesting the Cabramatta Nines in 2015, Chile soon established themselves as having the best men’s team from Latin America.

They defeated El Salvador 58-20 in their first 13-a-side international, went undefeated for more than 10 games in Latino Nines competition, then secured a memorable win against Argentina in the final of the historic 2017 Latin American Championships, held in Los Angeles, Chile.

For the championships in Chile, the Weichafes used just four players who had experience playing the game abroad, with the remainder from their domestic competitions, which covers an 1800km expanse.

However, to make the step up to tackle World Cup contenders from other parts of the globe, Chile is aware it must grow.

“Our future is our youth. Dedicating domestic resources towards developing school-based competitions is an absolute priority,” said Millar.

“We’ll also be looking at a women’s competition and ways to generate revenue in general across the sport in Chile.

“At the moment we receive no money from food or drinks at our venues, and the sale of alcohol at these events is prohibited.

“We’ve had some success with support from local councils, but we can develop those relationships and build new ones.

“Outside Chile, improving our levels of engagement and interaction with the global rugby league community, and working hand-in-hand with the NRL is of great importance as well.”

Currently Chile is ranked 32nd in the world in rugby league and 29th in the world in rugby union.

Although Millar says he has never looked at the 15-man game as an opponent to the 13-man game in Chile – he says they both provide opportunities – he does think being measured against a sport which was founded more than 80 years ago in Chile is a compliment to his young organisation.

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