By Matthew Brown, Date: 22/8/14
Chile is one of the newest nations being considered to debut as an international Rugby League team. Although they haven’t made their “official” introduction on the International stage, it is hoped in the foreseeable future that they will play.
The Chilean Rugby League team is a result of the success of the Latin Heat. The Latin Heat has played in over half a dozen games (both 9s and 13s) since their inception in Brisbane in the West Mitchelton 9s tournament in September 2013. Since then, the Latin Heat has helped identify enough players in Australia to help field a Chilean national side.
Since the beginning and even to today, there have been numerous Chileans who have pulled on the Latin Heat jersey and proudly represented Chile. For their first international, Jonathan Espinoza (of Chilean and Nicaraguan decent) helped captain the side in their first international. Since then he has played for the Latin Heat numerous times and continued to captain the side. Jonathan is a powerful runner and has the passion and desire to always play better than his best when playing for the Latin Heat.
Another individual is Jaiden Laing (of Chilean heritage). He was awarded the player’s player of the match for the Latin Heat in their first international against the Philippines on the Gold Coast. Jaiden is only 18 and has a bright future ahead of him both professionally and for the Latin Heat. Although he is still young, Jaiden is a big, powerful player and has always performed well when playing in International matches.
Another youngster is Brandon Tobar, he made his full international debut for the Heat against Thailand at Windsor, June 2014. Brandon is a Penrith Panthers junior and has a big future ahead of him. His performances have even helped him get noticed by Channel 9s The Footy Show when he won ‘Try of the Week’ in a weekly segment of the show. Brandon is one of the youngest players on the Heat team, however has enormous strength, size and power.
Although there is a strong contigent of Chileans who have played for the Latin Heat, there has also been a strong coaching link as well. Ernie Tobar (father of Brandon) was born in Santiago, Chile before moving to Australia when he was young. Ernie coached the Latin Heat team to their first full international draw against Thailand 16-16 (and was the first South American born to coach them as well). Not only has Ernie coached the side, but he played in the Heat’s first international against Philippines as well, playing his first game of Rugby League in 15 years! Ernie later mentioned that representing and coaching the Heat was one of the greatest experiences of his life and one which he will never forget.
Like Ernie, Brandon, Jaiden, Jonathan and every other Chilean player who has played for the Heat, they have represented not only the Latino community but their home nation (Chile) with immense pride! There is a long list of eligible players from NSW, Queensland and even in Victoria who are of Chilean descent.
Over the next few months (with help from the Latin Heat) it is hoped that Chile will follow Mexico and start up Rugby League in the South American nation. Although a name and design for their first international is left for another day, there is HUGE potential for Chilean rugby league with its youngsters and amount of depth they have in players. Chile is one of MANY Latin American nations who have a bright future a head of it in Rugby League.