TWO new events have been added to the international rugby league calendar, to be played on back-to-back days in the greater Sydney area.
For the first time, players of Central American and South American heritage will contest the Copa de Rugby XIII on Saturday, May 31 at Norford Park, Sefton in Sydney’s inner-west.
The following day, Sunday June 1, the combined Latin Heat will take on the Thailand Stars in a full-blooded international billed as ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, to be played at Windsor Sports Complex, north-west of Sydney.
Both events will occur in the same week that the Latin America Down Under conference is held in Sydney, attended by government and business figureheads from both sides of the Pacific.
The free Copa de Rugby XIII event on the Saturday aims to bring together Latinos of all ages and sexes to proudly represent their individual nations.
Though the inaugural tournament will be played under seven-a-side ‘tag’ rules to maximise participation and introduce newcomers, it is hoped the event will evolve to include a full-contact division in future years.
The Copa de Rugby XIII is an extension of the work done by Latin Heat Rugby League, in conjunction with the Rugby League International Federation, in engaging the Latin American community worldwide.
“The Latin Heat has so far played matches against the Philippines, Portugal, Japan and Greece, helping to unify and identifying Latinos with a passion for rugby league,” Latin Heat director Robert Burgin said.
“Now it’s time to start taking that next step so we can start to see individual nations emerge – such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia etc – and foster that friendly competition.
“The Chileans are probably the team most confident at the moment of winning the event, but there are some countries like El Salvador, Peru and Uruguay who are going to surprise people.
“What we hope for more than anything with this first Copa de Rugby XIII is a lot of fun to be had by all and to create a really strong Latino vibe.”
Participation in the Copa de Rugby XIII is open to all persons of Latino heritage, regardless of experience.
Nominations can be made by emailing Robert@sambatimes.com or through the Latin Heat Rugby League page on Facebook.
Nations will be permitted to enter more than one team.
Standout players will also be considered for a position in the Latin Heat men’s team to play Thailand Stars the following day, with Chile’s Ernie Tobar to coach the Heat for the first time.
“The game against Thailand is one I know players from both sides have been eagerly anticipating for months,” said Burgin.
“Both teams lost to the Philippines and both teams beat Japan, so the form line is intriguing.
“We openly admit that neither side has full-time professional players at present, but the passion is there and every week we take another step in spreading the game.
“Just recently we welcomed our first two Ecuadorians to the squad, we spoke with people in Mexico wanting to start their own competition, and have received some interest from Belize.”
Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias are proud naming rights sponsor of the Latin Heat and the team also receives support from Crop del Monte Coffee Specialists, Rumba Latina Entertainment, Link Australia International Student Service Centres and Gringo Media.
Run on a not-for-profit basis, the Latin Heat is welcoming of partnerships with businesses, organisations and individuals to help meet ongoing expenses and development plans.
For the purposes of rugby league development, the following heritages are included under the Latin Heat banner: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela.
SATURDAY, MAY 31 / Copa de Rugby XIII /Norford Park, Sefton, Sydney
SUNDAY, JUNE 1 /GYG Latin Heat v Thailand Stars, Windsor Sports Complex, NSW