Main image by Sergio Montenegro/Darkside Studio
HE SCORED a scampering try against players twice his size last week – and there’ll be few players cheered as loudly as 55kg Gabriel Papa when he plays for Latin America in this weekend’s Harmony Nines.
Freshly graduated from Patrician Brothers’ College, Fairfield, the diminutive 17-year-old was a standout in last week’s men’s game between the GYG Latin Heat Development squad and Africa United.
While Africa United were convincing winners in a 48-6 scoreline, Papa showed no fear or hesitation in either attack or defence against players much taller and more physically developed.
Invoking the spirit of pint-sized champions such as Allan Langer, the young Latino grabbed a sharp second half try via his fleet footwork and great game sense, then added the conversion with his boot.
In previous matches he mowed down a larger Mediterranean opponent on a fast break and bundled him into touch, and showed no qualms going head-to-head with monstrous Brisbane Broncos teen Payne Haas (pictured) when Haas represented the Philippines.
On a weekly basis Papa can be seen playing for the esteemed club Mounties in their Under 17 A grade side.
You could say Papa embodies the defiant tale of every rugby league player who has been told they were too small to play the game – a theme common among those of Latin American descent.
Even his younger brother Diego is bigger.
Both will play pivotal roles however this weekend in the ninth annual Harmony Cup meeting.
Gabriel, or ‘Nano’ as he is commonly known, will steer the ship for the Latinos in the Under 18 age group, while Diego will fulfil a similar role for the Heat’s Under 16 side.
It will be the third year that teams representing Latin American heritage participate in the festival.
Mum Claudia will be a team manager on the day, and father Walter a team trainer.
HARMONY CUP RUGBY LEAGUE, Saturday October 8.
UNDER 18 – The Kingsway Fields, The Kingsway, Werrington – Pool Games
9.50am – GYG Latin Heat v Mediterranean
11.30am – GYG Latin Heat v Italian Australia
1:10pm – GYG Latin Heat v NSW Indigenous South Sydney
UNDER 16 – St Marys Stadium, Forrester Rd, St Marys
10.15am – GYG Latin Heat v Western Sydney
2.00pm – GYG Latin Heat v Philippines
The efforts of the 100% volunteer-run Latin Heat Rugby League are supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, S.H.I.E.L.D Security, Tattoo Tears, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Jani-King Cleaning, SeriousAboutRL.com, Rugby League Team Manager 2015 computer game, Retrocom Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, Link Australia Student Services, Raw Juicery, SEMCAR Mechanics, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cast Graphics, Cabramatta Ink, Majestic Property Maintenance, musician Royal El Latino and Darkside Studio Photography.