BRISBANE City Council has thrown its weight behind Queensland’s burgeoning Latin American community, committing as Silver Sponsor to Saturday’s GYG Latino Origin rugby league event at West End.
The sponsorship is one of the most significant exhibitions of support to date for the volunteer-run Latin American Rugby League (also known as Latin Heat), which first began in Brisbane in 2013.
Saturday’s game will see the Latino community of Queensland play against their counterparts from New South Wales at historic and multicultural Davies Park, home of Mal Meninga’s and Wayne Bennett’s former club, Souths Logan Magpies.
The players picked to represent both states were chosen from 24 Central and South America national heritages, including a mix of childhood refugees, international students, economic migrants and first generation Australians who have a piece of their heart on both sides of the Pacific.
“But we aim to be about more than just rugby league, and our teams provide a support network, a cultural exchange, an opportunity to learn English, and promote a healthy lifestyle,” Latin Heat co-founder Robert Burgin said.
“We’re almost into our fifth year of running free training sessions and putting on games for the Latin American community and this support from Brisbane City Council is wonderful recognition.
“Our first training session was attended by three people in Brisbane, and now we have hundreds of Latinos playing not only in Brisbane, but also Sydney, Melbourne, throughout Latin America and the USA.
“Before we existed, there was no avenue for Latinos to play international rugby league and since then we’ve seen three countries – Chile, El Salvador and Uruguay – become world-ranked and several others take their first footsteps in the global arena.
“I’m incredibly proud to say Brisbane was the birthplace for that movement, and it’s shown itself to be a very hospitable place with a mutual appreciation of what it means to be a Latino and be an Australian – for many, at the same time!”
Last year the number of Colombian students in Australia rose by 22.4 per cent and the number of Brazilian students rose by 19.6 per cent.
Outside of Asian nations, Brazil sends more students to Australia than any other country, with almost 30,000 enrolments last year – and Brisbane being one of the most popular destinations.
The Latin Heat’s major sponsor since inception, Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, has also played a significant role in transforming the shape of Brisbane’s Latino community in recent years.
There are now almost 20 Guzman y Gomez stores in the greater Brisbane area, including at iconic points such as Southbank, Eagle Street Pier, The University of Queensland and Westfield Chermside.
Saturday’s Latino Origin event will commence at 4pm at Davies Park, Jane Street, West End, with a tag (non-contact) game played between both male and female newcomers to the sport.
This will be followed at 5.15pm by the full-contact main event, where Chilean heritage player Bradley Millar Pavez will captain Queensland, and the son of a refugee from El Salvador, Alvaro Alarcon, will skipper New South Wales.
Other supporters of the 100% volunteer-run Latin Heat Rugby League are S.H.I.E.L.D Security, Tattoo Tears, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Cast Graphics, SeriousAboutRL.com, Retrocom Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, EMSA Education and Migration Services, Raw Juicery, SEMCAR Mechanics, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cabramatta Ink, Majestic Property Maintenance, musician Royal El Latino, Radio Austral and Darkside Studio Photography.