THEY’RE the countries with the largest domestic rugby league footprints in Latin America and Asia – and now Chile and Thailand are set to meet each other in western Sydney on the eve of the NRL grand final.
With ambitions to climb inside the top 30 of the Rugby League international Federation rankings, the two developing nations will feature on a packed September 30 evening at Liverpool All Saints called ‘Rise of the Underdogs’.
In the other games on the bill El Salvador is set to face Uruguay, a combined Latin American Development side will play a composite Asian team, and a series of mixed tag rugby league games will take place.
“We’re naming the event ‘The Rise of the Underdogs’ because we’re embracing the fact all participating teams have a long way to go, but plenty of determination to one day get there,” Latin American Rugby League co-founder Robert Burgin said.
“We have purposely scheduled three games that should be very evenly matched and incredibly difficult to pick a winner in until fulltime.
“I’d implore anyone in town for the NRL Grand Final to come out and experience the unique atmosphere of developing nations rugby league.
“Aside from the excitement and the multicultural aspect, it’s one of those great sporting events that no matter who wins, you are pleased for your opposition in a sense, because they’re all fighting the same fight.”
Chile currently has the largest domestic league of any nation in South America, with 13 teams being established in a little over a year, while Thailand has eight clubs to give it the largest domestic rugby league base in Asia.
The nations are both smarting after last-up losses to Eastern European sides, with Chile losing 56-0 to Poland, and Thailand losing 44-10 to Hungary in successive weeks in February.
They, like the other participating nations will draw inspiration from Brad Fittler’s Rugby League World Cup battlers Lebanon, who have defied all odds to be among the 14 qualifiers for the game’s showpiece this year.
With a population of just under six million people, Lebanon has a comparative population to both El Salvador and Uruguay.
The Mediterranean nation also took its first steps in the sport with a team comprised predominantly of an Australian-based diaspora, before a domestic league took hold in the homeland.
“Lebanon is now into its 10th year of playing international rugby league and they provide a great example for minnow nations starting out,” Burgin said.
“El Salvador and Uruguay both have a similar model, in that their early teams have been comprised of mainly Latin American expatriates who came to Australia as refugees or migrants, and their children.
“It’s something the teams do cop criticism for, but it is part of a bigger scheme and we have been working in both nations identifying people who can help transfer that into domestic developments.
“I can tell you – whatever people’s perceptions may be – that the players on both sides of this clash have a genuine, deep-seated pride in their heritage and this particular match-up has been eagerly anticipated in the Latino community.”
The combined Latin American Development team playing in the first tackle game of the day at 3pm will be comprised of Latinos of all nationalities from outside Uruguay, El Salvador and Chile.
Similarly, the ASEAN team will combine a host of nationalities representing from Japan in the north to Indonesia in the south.
The day’s events will help put the spotlight on the Latin American Rugby League Championships happening in Santiago, Chile on November 18-19 – the first 13-a-side multinational competition involving domestic players from across Central and South America.
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.
RISE OF THE UNDERDOGS
Saturday, September 30
Liverpool All Saints
Hillier Oval, Liverpool
Oztag Exhibition 1 (mixed all ages)
Latin America (Latin Heat – all Latino nationalities eligible) V ASEAN (Composite ASIA-PACIFIC) – tackle
Oztag Exhibition 2 (mixed all ages)
Chile V Thailand – full International tackle rules for RLIF points
Oztag Exhibition 3 (mixed all ages)
El Salvador V Uruguay – full International tackle rules for RLIF points