In the player’s own words…
Hi, my name is Eduardo Wegener of the Chilean Rugby League national team. I have been playing rugby league since the age of six.
My recent journey to Chile was my first ever trip away from Australian soil, traveling to the birth country of my father and grandfather.
I was one of four Australian-based Chileans who participated and to be able to promote and play the sport I love while wearing the colours of my heritage was entirely overwhelming.
Going to Chile and playing in the first ever Latin American Rugby League Championship was honestly a life goal and highlight. It really meant a lot, as in every game I still play as if my now-deceased grandfather is right there beside me.
For someone who had never been to a developing nation it was a big eye-opener and showed just how lucky we really are to live where we do.
My first impression of Santiago was…wow…I never knew how third-world some of the areas would look.
The places we stayed at were heavily secured, with metal fencing and sharp serrated edges on the top, or brick walls with barb wire and sharp objects in between to stop thieves jumping over.
When we arrived in Santiago we pretty much had just a couple of hours before hopping back on a plane and heading 1400km north to Antofagasta.
The locals there were so welcoming that it made me feel like an instant family member. We stayed in Antofagasta for four days, promoting rugby league to as many schools as we possibly could, up-skilling the established local clubs and identified international players.
We also created lifelong friends/family in what was an intense induction to the local culture.
After those four days we headed back 1400km to Santiago and from there we caught a six-hour bus 500km further south to the city of Los Angeles, where the championship was set to take place.
Everywhere we went the locals and the families we stayed with all welcomed us with open arms and treated us as if we were one of their own.
After the two-day tournament completed – on that final whistle in the game against Argentina – a wall of feelings hit me.
Yes I showed some emotion at the end of the game, to which many of my Australian friends were unaware of the background.
I’d recently been through the passing of a close family friend which really affected me.
I made my friend’s father a promise before I left for Chile – to win the championship for his son along with my grandfather, whom he had met before on numerous of occasions.
Since arriving back to Australia I have already started planing my next trip back to Chile.
The families over there are very different in the sense they are more appreciative of the things they have, due to their low wages.
To put it into perspective, 1000 Chilean pesos is worth roughly $2 Australian. Some of the monthly wages for entire families there average out to be AU$460. That is two days’ work to a lot of Aussies.
I’m motivated to make a difference to them and also to the sport that I love.
I really want to see Rugby League World Cup have a team from every continent involved in the future and I think they need to invest in a better system to make all nations involved at the same time, but perhaps in differing divisions.
Stay tuned for more in the future. There are exciting times ahead.
- 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.