A 193cm, 110kg Central American who spends his time as a Rugby League enforcer, JC Mendez is quite literally a giant contradiction.
Often mistaken for a Pacific Islander because of his size, the religious roof tiler from Melbourne will represent the OneBigSwitch.com.au El Salvador team against Chile at Newtown’s Henson Park this Saturday, June 11.
Debunking just about every stereotype you can conjure, the 22-year-old defies people’s expectations of what a ‘typical Rugby league player’ should be like.
“Growing up in Victoria, I’ve never really had the chance to connect with my heritage like this, to run out with people from my own land who will put their bodies on the line for it,” says Mendez.
Mendez is a passionate youth leader for the Enjoy church in Mulgrave, Melbourne, and sees his position within the church as a similar calling to that which draws him to a game totally foreign to most Salvadorans.
“I’ve been working with the youth for two years there and we’ve grown from 20 to 50 kids in that time,” the Hampton Park resident says.
“I use Rugby League as an example of life and teach the kids that no matter how hard you get knocked down, you’ve got to pick yourself up again and again.
“I just tell them to keep eating their vegetables. Haha.”
Mendez’s height is the product of a recessive gene on his mother’s side.
But while his Mum missed out on the tree trunk legs, JC (short for Jose Carlos) estimates he stands “four heads higher”.
Like most players featuring in the GYG Latino Sevens, Mendez has made a big switch from a childhood and family history entrenched in soccer.
“My cousin Ari started playing rugby union, but then I saw Rugby League and thought ‘this is on a whole other level’,” reveals Mendez.
“You could whack people as hard as you could and I really enjoyed the energetic aspect of it.
“I only started to play when I was 18, but I scored a try in my first game and that always helps.”
Now in his fourth season in the VRL, Mendez has improved markedly and started to be noticed by rival clubs.
His former South Eastern Titans club teammate Dennis Ford will be among the rival players lining up for Chile this weekend.
El Salvador enters the clash built of a tightknit group, but with less depth to choose from than their Latino rivals.
They are also one of the best supported teams from South America, carrying OneBigSwitch.com.au as major sponsor – an organisation that helps consumers fight back against the rising cost of living, using people power.
TICKETS: $10 via Oztix LINK: http://tickets.oztix.com.au/?Event=63089
The efforts of the 100% volunteer-run Latin Heat Rugby League are supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, S.H.I.E.L.D Security, Tattoo Tears, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Jani-King Cleaning, SeriousAboutRL.com, Rugby League Team Manager 2015 computer game, Retrocom Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, Link Australia Student Services, Raw Juicery, SEMCAR Mechanics, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cast Graphics, Cabramatta Ink, Majestic Property Maintenance, and Darkside Studio Photography.