On Thursday, January 16, Brazilian Margrith Weiss will appear at Buckingham Palace, along with Prince Harry, for the official draw of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
To make the event, Margrith is travelling 10,000km from south-western Brasil, where she coaches and plays with the Maringá Hawks, currently the most geographically isolated club in Brasil Rugby League.
Shortly before she boarded the plane, she provided this first-hand account of her amazing journey from being an unknown rural athlete to an embodiment of Brasil’s history-making appearance as the first Latin American nation at a League World Cup.
“Olá, I’m Margrith Weiss, 31-years-old, and I have always been an athlete, although in very different sports. I grew up in Rolândia, a town of 60,000 in Parana, Brasil. Parana is a state which borders with both Paraguay and Argentina on one side, and with the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. I live closer to the Paraguayan side. Rolândia was originally settled by German migrants, which may give an insight to my surname. A lot of people probably think that I don’t look like a ‘typical’ Brazilian, but the truth is Brasil is incredibly diverse. Challenging some of the external stereotypes is one aspect that excites a lot of us about Brasil’s qualification for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
“I previously played handball, including when I was an exchange student in Germany in 2006. Handball is not a popular sport in traditional rugby league area like England, Australia and New Zealand, but it is massive in Brasil and I see a lot of similarities in the skills and aggression required for league. In 2008 I stopped playing handball because I started studying marketing and advertising at university and devoted my time to that. In the meantime I had moved from Rolândia to Mandaguari, then to my home of the past 10 years, Maringá. After my graduation, I started my own advertising company and I was into road running at that stage. However, I always missed collective sports and then in 2015 a friend of mine invited me to play rugby for Maringá. Within six months I became the president of my team, but we used to work only with adult players. One year later, the club started working with children and teenagers. Slowly the team was growing and in 2017 we received support from City Hall to employ people to develop rugby in the city. We took rugby to schools, we taught rugby to school teachers and I suppose around 2000 people have already taken some sort of course with us.
“Until the start of 2019 I only knew Rugby Union, but then I participated at the Rugby League national selection matches. It was my first time with League and I fell in love with it. Then, at the end of July I was summoned to the Brazilian national team. After this, I started to get more and more interested, and in December I won the national championship with Remendadas – a team of girls from all the far corners of the country. Maringá’s male team also finished second. That was a big achevement for us, playing against teams from much bigger cities. Shortly after this win, I received the invitation from Hugo Froes and the Brasil Confederation to represent Brasil at the World Cup draw. Last week I found out that the event will be taking place at the Buckingham Palace with the royal family. For me this is amazing. I am very excited about this and I can’t describe my appreciation of the faith put in me by Brasil and the Rugby League World Cup 2021 committee.” – Margrith Weiss, Brasil Rugby League athlete and club coach.