IT took a funeral for 125kg Chilean Eddie Wegener to find out there was such a thing as Latin American Rugby League.
Now he is set to face Portugal in Sunday’s Copa Cabral at Woollahra Oval in Rose Bay, Sydney.
The third man in his lineage to carry the name Eduardo, young Eddie was at his grandfather’s July cremation when church elder Bruce Rossel approached him.
Just a few weeks beforehand Pastor Rosell had been intrigued enough to drive from Canberra to Sydney to represent Chile in a tag rugby league tournament organised by the fledgling GYG Latin Heat outfit.
Encouraged by what he saw, Pr Rossel had an instant idea when powerfully built Eddie said he wanted to find a way to honour his ‘Abuelo’.
He recommended Eddie use the experience gained playing for West Belconnen Warriors in the Canberra competition to represent his heritage and encourage other Latin Americans to discover a passion.
“After my grandfather’s passing it opened my eyes to seeing what he achieved being one of the first Chileans to migrate to the Australian capital,” says Eddie.
“He was born in the beachside city of Valparaiso in Chile, but moved to Australia for a better life and worked for the national mint.
“I’ve joined the Latin Heat to be part of something big…history-making big.
“Playing for this team makes me so proud and representing Latin America is something I would never have dreamed of.
“Abuelo has inspired me to do this and I know, deep down inside, he would be very proud of me.”
Also a DJ on the Canberra club circuit, Wegener will be joined up front by 130kg bouncer Sean Day in the biggest front row yet to represent Latin American Rugby League.
Day and fellow debutant Aaron Perez will boost the number of Peruvians in the top squad to a record four, joining mainstays Jye Sommers and Luis Guillermo Fhon.
Other new additions to the side are Adam Kungl (Uruguay), Eddie Ventura (El Salvador) and teenage giant William Neculman (Chile)
All have family links within the side. Adam’s brother Ryan represented the Latin Heat against Thailand in June, while Eddie’s brother Cruz and William’s brother Nicholas both played Harmony Cup Under 16s for the Latinos.
The Copa Cabral contested by the two teams on Sunday honours Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral, the first European sea captain to reach four continents and lead a meaningful expedition of Latin America.
GYG LATIN AMERICAN HEAT v Portugal
3pm, Sunday October 19, Woollahra Oval, Rose Bay, Sydney.
1. Kevin McKenzie (Born Guyana)
2. Eddie Ventura (Father born El Salvador)
3. Sebastian Delapaz (Both parents born Chile)
4. Brandon Tobar (Father born Chile)
5. Luis Guillermo Fhon (Born Peru)
6. Daniel Sarmiento (Born Colombia)
7. Adam Kungl (Father born Uruguay)
8. Eddie Wegener (Father born Chile)
9. Daniel Navarro (Both parents born Argentina)
10. Sean Day (Mother born Peru)
11. Jye Sommers (Grandfather born Peru)
12. Juan David (Born Colombia)
13. Jaden Laing (Mother born Chile)
14. Jonathan Espinoza (Father born Nicaragua, Mother born Chile)
15. Josh Gadea-Hellyer (Father born Uruguay)
16. Aaron Perez (Father born Peru)
17. William Neculman (Both parents born Chile)
18. Joshua Munoz (Mother born Chile)
19. Carlos Rojas (Father born Chile)
Coach: Gabriel Keegan (Born Argentina)