LOS ANGELES in southern Chile will be the venue for the first full Latin American Rugby League Championships, to be held 17-18 November, 2017.
The tournament will involve four nations – Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico – and be played under a 13-a-side basis complying with Rugby League International Federation guidelines for Test matches.
The event is intended to expand upon a successful nine-a-side tournament held last year in Miramar, Argentina, which drew a mixture of international and regional teams from South America.
Aside from the proposed championships, an integrated three-week itinerary will see players from traditional rugby league strongholds travel across Latin America to promote and teach the game.
Volunteers will also seek to establish a number of ‘hubs’ in Latin America where new fans can be introduced to the sport via broadcasts of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
“This has been the dream since the start of the Latin Heat, and in our fifth year we’ve now built to a position where it can be made possible,” co-founder Robert Burgin said.
“The selection of Marcelo Montoya (pictured, Chilean heritage) by the Bulldogs in the NRL has provided a much-needed hero for the 600 million people of Latin America to look up to.
“The northern hemisphere’s Super League has Gadwin Springer (French Guiana) playing for Castleford, while former English Test player Ade Gardner was of Brazilian descent.”
Although the majority of past Latin Heat events have been contested by Australian-based players of Latino descent, the intention of the November titles will be predominantly to encourage players living in Central and South America.
Players from outside Latin America who qualify via the Rugby League International Federation heritage rules will still be permitted to play, but must fund their own way to Santiago.
“We’ve worn a lot of criticism for the way we have promoted Australian-based heritage players in the past, but the truth is that without them, we wouldn’t be in a position to attempt this,” Burgin said.
“Past Latin Heat events identified and encouraged a community of supporters, who then engaged their family and friends, which then led to the sport making an astonishing leap across the Pacific.
“This is much the same way that Lebanon went from rugby league obscurity to World Cup contestants in under two decades.
“There’s a lot of strict ideology in rugby league about how to grow the sport – usually voiced by those who haven’t – but it’s been shown there is more than one way to attain the objective.
“The two most important factors are belief and action.”
Last year’s nines tournament in Miramar saw Argentina’s national selection defeat Chile’s domestic side 16-0 in the final, after both teams went through qualifying undefeated.
However, with a full complement of Australian-based heritage players, Chile has never been beaten by a Latin American opponent, despite several close calls against Peru and El Salvador in particular.
The 100% volunteer-run Latin American Rugby League is supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, Shield Security Pty Ltd, Tattoo Tears, One Big Switch, Cast Graphics, IntaGas Services, LS Tax & Accounting Services, Serious About Rugby League, Retro-Com Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, EMSA Education and Migration Services Australia, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cabramatta Ink Tattoo, Majestic Property Maintenance, Radio Austral and Fighting For Fitness Gym.