By Mauricio Avila
Latin Heat Committee Member & Chilean Chamber of Commerce Official
For a while this year I was having health issues and not even the strongest medication could help.
As a last resort my local doctor (who is also South American), suggested I travel “back home” to Chile to spend time with friends, family and – if there were any special events to attend – then this change of scenery would do wonders for my health.
I looked at my doctor straight into his eyes and said: Yes, as a matter of fact there is going to be the very first Rugby League Championships in Chile.
He stared back at me like I had gone mad….and asked if I was sure that I had said Rugby League AND Chile in the same sentence.
My doctor could not fathom the thought of Rugby League in South America.
I did not have to think it twice! Within two days from this visit to my doctor, I was on a flight bound for Chile, excited at the idea of visiting family and experiencing the Inaugural Latin American Rugby League Championships.
Upon arriving at Santiago airport, I noticed a young fellow wearing a Latin Heat polo so I decided to approach him.
Little did I know that this fellow, Jose Martinez, was going to film the entire event and produce a documentary.
We started to chat and both were excited and looking forward to the Championships.
Jose then said that, even though he did not speak too much Spanish, he was assured people in Chile would be happy to help him make his way to Los Angeles by bus.
The fact Jose was able to arrive in Los Angeles later that evening made me remember to appreciate and value the genuine friendliness of Chilean people.
My parents joined me in Santiago and together we travelled to the southern Chilean city of Los Angeles. Wow, what scenery.
When we arrived at the playing fields, we found the tournament had already commenced and fans were already starting to steadily build.
It was surreal to see Chilean coach Rodrigo Millar, whom I had met some months earlier in Australia, giving his players a few pointers and lending his years of experience.
Throughout both days of the event, you could feel the passion and dedication of every player in each team, and what it meant for them to play for their country.
Language was no barrier either. Even the Aussie touch judge could make himself understood with hand signals!
But as in any competition, there can only be one winner….and Chile became inaugural champions, despite the best efforts of Argentina, Colombia and Brazil.
The day after I arrived back home, my doctor asked me: “How was your trip? Was it worthwhile? What impacted you the most?”.
I responded that the trip was great. Yes it was certainly worthwhile, and what impacted me the most was South Americans loving to help strangers and making them feel welcome, happy to share all that they have.
It was an extra bonus to witness how passionate they had become about Rugby League.
The desire dedication & emotion shown on this event by all – fans, players, officials, volunteers – is testament to how new audiences can appreciate Rugby League.
This was only the beginning of exciting times ahead for the development of this sport within these passionate, and hospitable nations.
And next time…it will not take doctor’s order to make me return to Latin America!
- The 100% volunteer-run Latin American Rugby League was supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, Shield Security Pty Ltd, Tattoo Tears, Cast Graphics, IntaGas Services, LS Tax & Accounting Services, Retro-Com Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, GMA Tourism, EMSA Education and Migration Services Australia, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, The Edge Home Loans, Oaky North Lodge CFMEU, ACTIVE Rehabilitation Physiotherapy, Radio Austral and Fighting For Fitness Gym.
CHILE 32 (Jonathan Espinoza 3, Zecil Yao, Mana Castillo-Sioni, Piero Diaz; James Horvat 3, Jonathan Espinoza goals) beat ARGENTINA 12 (Dario Moyano, Facundo Lizarzuay tries; Facundo Lizarzuay 2 goals) at Cancha de Golf 7 Rios, Los Angeles, Chile. Referee: Juan Perez. Touch Judges: Andrew Charles, Pablo Baeza. Halftime: Chile 20-6. Interchanges: Argentina 5, Chile 6.
THIRD PLACE PLAYOFF
COLOMBIA 22 (Manuel Baene Murillo 3, Daniel Vera Giraldo tries, Hector Linares 3 goals) beat BRASIL 18 (Liniker Periera de Faria, Mauro Amorim Filho, Elias Cardoso tries; Lucas Vinas Vieira 3 goals) at Cancha de Golf 7 Rios, Los Angeles, Chile. Referee: Andrew Chalres. Touch Judges: Juan Perez, Pablo Baeza. Halftime: Colombia 16-0. Interchanges: Colombia 5, Brasil 4.
FEMALE NINES EXHIBITION.
Game 1: Argentina 6 beat Chile 0.
Game 2: Argentina 20 beat Chile 0.
ARGENTINA 36 (Ignacio Traversa 3, Gustavo Cosso, Ares Martinez, Fernando Lopez, Ariel Cosso tries; Facundo Lizarzuay 2 goals, Juan De Revere 2 goals) defeated COLOMBIA 4 (Sebastian Martinez try) at Cancha Golf 7 Rios, Los Angeles, Chile. Referee: Juan Perez. Touch Judges: Andrew Charles, Iziah Esera Catrileo. Halftime: Argentina 20-0. Interchanges: Argentina 6, Colombia 9.
CHILE 54 (Jonathan Espinoza 3, Piero Diaz 3, James Horvat 2, Javier Aedo, Eduardo Wegener tries; James Horvat 7 goals) defeated BRASIL 8 (Liniker Faria, Gabriel Ribeiro tries) at Cancha Golf 7 Rios, Los Angeles, Chile. Referee: Andrew Charles. Touch Judges: Juan Perez, Iziah Esera Catrileo. Halftime: 20-4. Interchanges: Chile 6, Brazil 4.