WILLIAM Gomez’s father left school in Ecuador in Year Six. He started working as a mechanic when he was 12, performed national military service, then moved to the other side of the world by the time he was 20.
Set to play for the GYG Latin Heat Rugby League Development Squad against ASEAN at the September 30 Rise of the Underdogs at Liverpool, Gomez Junior doesn’t need to look far for motivation.
And the more you chat with the eloquent, worldly outside back – who describes himself as the ‘Latino Luke Covell’ – it becomes clear that his life’s trajectory is not only anchored in the achievements of past generations.
“I guess my parents have taught me that nothing is impossible. I have no excuses to fail in life with the opportunities I’ve been given,” says Will.
“I’ve always had the intention in my mind that I would grow up to make my parents proud…to repay them for how they’ve set us up.
“But while that’s part of my mindset, I also feel that I’ve always been an ambitious person myself, without trying to be cocky.
“I’m the sort of person who will listen to podcasts by motivational speakers on my way to work. I’ll check work emails from 7am to 9pm because I enjoy what I do.
“To me, life is about always advancing.”
If you’re getting the impression that Gomez is extremely driven, you’re pretty much on the money.
His high school grades placed him in the top seven per cent of graduates across New South Wales, he completed a university degree in commerce and economics, and now works for multinational insurance company Zurich.
When he’s not scouring the internet for words of wisdom, you’ll also find him up early in the morning at a boxing gym in Redfern, pushing himself to the limit.
It’s how a guy who started playing rugby league just four years ago for Kensington United has become one of the most improved players across the whole Latin American Rugby League organisation.
“I was only 71kg when I first started playing,” Gomez reveals.
“In my very first game I was out defending on the wing and play suddenly switched in my direction and I had this massive Pacific Islander prop running at me, with an overlap on his outside.
“I kind of gritted my teeth and went in and, thankfully, wrapped him up and got him down before he could pass.
“Before that moment I had so much nervousness, but afterwards I developed the belief I could tackle anyone.
“I was pretty fortunate to experience that in my first game, so I really enjoyed it from then on.
“I’ve formed a niche being a fairly reliable winger who makes his tackles and keeps down errors. I guess I’m sort of like a Jason Nightingale or Luke Covell type, rather than being a superquick, flashy winger.”
Despite his successful first foray into rugby league, Gomez didn’t discover there was a representative team for Latin Americans for another three years.
He saw an old family friend at a fund-raiser for the Ecuadorian earthquake appeal, who talked to him about Latin Heat and invited him to try out.
As with his club games, Gomez had instant impact on the field, making two try-saving cover tackles in his first event for Ecuador versus Colombia.
He was later chosen in the Latin Heat Development team to play Africa United in late 2016, then burst through to the top Latino squad at the Cabramatta International Nines in January 2017.
When a special Incan composite team was named (comprised of all the nations which fell within the former Incan empire), Gomez had the distinction of being named captain.
The way he has climbed the ranks in rugby league, in many ways, is reflected by the way he has progressed in his career.
“I’m a sales and relationships manager with Zurich and that responsibility keeps me in check and motivated,” he says.
“The role involves a lot of mediation, both internally and externally, and that can involve building new relationships, maintaining old ones, listening carefully and building rapport.
“I feel like they are really beneficial skills to develop in life anyway and, to be successful at what I do, the most important attributes are having trust and respect, which is a good thing.
“From someone who used to be quite shy to talk more than 15 minutes with a client, I do think I’ve disciplined myself to always giving 100 per cent, and not taking shortcuts or making excuses.
“I do tend to be fuelled by proving people wrong and delivering more than what they expect.”
Which, of course, is a good mindset to have if you’re trying to put one of rugby league’s newest regions and countries on the world map.
>> The Rise of The Underdogs on September 30 at Hillier Oval, Liverpool, features a full day of international matches from 1pm, with Malta Under 16 playing Africa United Under 16, Latin Heat Development facing ASEAN (South East Asia) at 3pm, Chile playing Thailand at 5.15pm, with the El Salvador v Uruguay showpiece at 7.30pm. Tickets are $10 an individual or $15 for two adults and children.
The 100% volunteer-run Latin American Rugby League is supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, Brisbane City Council, Shield Security Pty Ltd, Tattoo Tears, One Big Switch, Cast Graphics, Serious About Rugby League, Retro-Com Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, EMSA Education and Migration Services Australia, Raw Juicery, SEMCAR Mechanics, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cabramatta Ink Tattoo, Majestic Property Maintenance, musician Royal El ‘ Latino, Radio Austral and Fighting For Fitness Gym.