He once burnt animal hearts before a rugby league game on the Day of the Dead to signify his Latino heritage.
Now Latin Heat Rugby League’s first Mexican representative has spoken on Cinco de Mayo of the elation of being selected for next month’s international match against Thailand in Sydney.
Following the weekend’s entertaining Samoa-Fiji and Australia-New Zealand Test matches, Grantito Chacone had his selection at fullback confirmed for the upcoming game between Latin America and Thailand on June 1 at Windsor.
That the announcement was made on May 5 – a day celebrated around the globe by Mexicans – was a fact not lost on the son of a Chiapas concretor.
“When I told my Dad he was super excited and happy,” says Western Australian-based Chacone.
“He made a point that he’s especially proud it’s all the Latino nations coming together as one, because that hasn’t happened enough in his lifetime.
“Latinos are known for their pride and passion and it’s important to work together for one cause.
“I think there is so much feeling in this…if we pull together there is no way we should be defeated.”
Chacone qualifies for the GYG Latin Heat along two bloodlines.
While his father and grandmother are Mexican, his grandfather is from the Argentinian coast.
And to make his genetics even more eclectic, his mother is of French Polynesian extraction.
The colourful concoction explains his unique name, a compromise between his Mum’s desire to call him ‘Grant’ and his father’s insistence he be called ‘Tito’.
Raised in Goodna, a popular spot for migrant families near Brisbane, Chacone grew up with rugby league from the age of 10.
In Queensland he played for Goodna Eagles, West End Bulldogs and Rosewood Roosters in the Ipswich competition, before moving to Perth to work as a boilermaker in the mines.
Though he gave the game away for several years, he is now back playing with the Rockingham Sharks in the WARL, having also coached at Mandurah Storm.
“This team – the Latin Heat – is a blessing,” says Chacone, now 32.
“After all these years without a representative side…I actually feel the fire and passion each time I look at the logo.
“Once before, for a club game, I got all these metal dog bowls, warmed them up, placed cow hearts in them and then put them around the field.
“It was to signify the Day of the Dead. Even though I was the only Latino playing, it got everyone fired up.
“You know…I feel like this is exactly what I was born to do.”
The colourful custodian names Greg Inglis as his footballing hero and, at 97kg, will look to play a similarly physical game.
Through the week Chacone juggles his work and rugby league commitments with his role as a mixed martial arts instructor.
He teaches Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo and silat, and is steeped in boxing and kickboxing experience, being a previous amateur champion.
A childhood friend of previous GYG Latin Heat representatives Jose and Walter Orellana, Chacone also has an ongoing role with mentoring autistic children.
“You know, as Latinos growing up, we used to get picked on quite a bit…by everyone,” says Chacone.
“I really want to help the autistic kids out because sometimes they get shunned. People don’t take the time needed to help them learn stuff.”
Chacone is the first player confirmed for the June 1 GYG Latin Heat v Thailand clash at Windsor – billed as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.
A generous agreement by his employer Carey Mining to fund his travel costs, will see Chacone become the most remote player to represent the Heat to date.
The GYG Latin Heat exists to give the 600 million people of South and Central America a presence in international league and is comprised of players with heritage in the following:
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 and Venezuela.
Aside from naming rights sponsor Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, the Latin Heat thanks Crop del Monte Coffee Specialists, Rumba Latina Entertainment, Link Australia International Student Services, Fighting for Fitness Gym and Gringo Media for their support.
The remainder of the GYG Latin Heat squad for the Thailand game will be announced in coming weeks.
• Copa de Rugby XIII, Saturday May 31, Norford Park, Sefton, Sydney – The first all-Latino rugby league tournament played between the individual nations of South and Central America. This inaugural event will be played on a non-contact ‘tag’ basis to maximise participation and is open to all levels of abilities, ages and genders.
• ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ versus Thailand Stars, Sunday June 1, Windsor Sports Complex, West Sydney – The latest event on the international rugby league calendar pits two emerging sides head-to-head. Both teams have beaten Japan and both teams have lost to Asia Cup champions the Philippines, so it should be a close one!