Will speed, power, skill or heart triumph at this Saturday’s historic GYG Latino Rugby League Sevens in western Sydney?
Squad lists for the first international meeting of Latin American nations in the sport were finalised Thursday afternoon.
The Latino Sevens runs 5pm-8pm on Saturday at New Era Stadium, Sussex St, Cabramatta.
LatinHeatRL.com runs the rule over each competing squad.
CHILE (Caciques Chilenos)
Squad: Esteban Bazaez, Giorgio Blanco, Alex Bluck, Mana Castillo (Mascot Jets, NSW), Sebastian Delapaz (Mounties, NSW), Jonathan Espinoza (Griffith Uni, QLD), Dennis Ford (South Eastern Titans, VIC), Liam Hernandez , Richard Hernandez (St Clair Comets, NSW), James Horvat (Mounties, NSW), Francisco Lagos, Jaden Laing (Blacktown Workers, NSW), Brad Millar (Beenleigh Lions, QLD), David Mora (South Eastern Titans, VIC), Jonathan Munoz, Joshua Munoz, William Neculman, Israel Perez, Eduardo Wegener (West Belconnen Warriors, ACT), Jayden Yasar.
Speed: Centre Giorgio Blanco is a rugby union convert from Arica in Chile’s north. The Crossfit enthusiast not only has fast feet, but great pass timing in traffic. Sebastian Delapaz is another who can motor.
Power: Chile will have five of the biggest and strongest forwards in the competition in co-captains Eduardo Wegener and Jonathan Espinoza, and young guns Jaden Laing, Mana Castillo and William Neculman.
Skill: Mounties up-and-comer James Horvat can play multiple positions, has great passing and kicking and crunching defence to boot.
Heart: He’s not the biggest forward on the park, but West Hoxton resident Joshua Munoz can put a shot on. Played New South Wales Combined Catholic Colleges from De La Salle College, Revesby Heights.
1. Though poles apart in appearance, Jonathan Espinoza, David Mora and Dennis Ford are cousins, as are Jaden Laing and Joshua Munoz. Liam and Richard Hernandez are brothers.
2. Fair-skinned Ford is the only ginger-haired player to be named for the Latino Nines and carries the nickname ‘Leche’, which translates in Spanish to ‘Milk’.
3. Several of the players have eclectic heritage – Mana Castillo has a mother from Chile and father from PNG, Jaden Laing is the nephew of former Fijian NRL player Aseri, and Jayden Yasar is Chileno-Turkish.
4. Eduardo Wegener only discovered the existence of Latin American Rugby League at his grandfather’s funeral, where church leader Bruce Rossel encouraged him to play.
5. Teacher Alex Bluck will travel all the way down from North Queensland’s Abergowrie College – the former school of Matthew Bowen – to make his debut for the Caciques.
COLOMBIA (Hermanos Colombianos)
Squad: Diego Gil Vejerano, David Goyeneche, Miguel Henao Velez (East Campbelltown Eagles, NSW), Juan Lara, Andres Marino Silva, Sebastian Maya Jimenez, Jesse Morales, Alejandro Restrepo, Daniel Rickard (Burpengary Jets, QLD), Andres Sarmiento Vizcaya.
Speed: Diego Gil Vejerano will be one of the fastest players featuring in the tournament. Wiry, but tough, he chased down USA World Cup player Tui Samoa at a previous Nines tournament.
Power: Andres Sarmiento Vizcaya is a great advantage-line runner who combines his frame and footwork well.
Skill: For a forward, Sebastian Maya Jimenez has soft hands and brings many of the offloading skills he learnt growing up playing for Cabras Rugby Club in Medellin, Colombia.
Heart: This will be the first-ever Rugby League game for environmental worker Andres Marino Silva, who has shown rapid improvement in just a matter of weeks at training.
1. Burrito baron and Wolli Creek resident David Goyeneche works for the tournament’s major sponsor Guzman y Gomez.
2. Colombian coach Daniel Sarmiento is an NRL Development Officer and has been instrumental in spreading the word in the Latino community.
3. Miguel Henao Velez was one of the last players discovered before registrations closed. He will resume an inter-club rivalry with Peruvian pair Aaron Perez and Luis Guillermo Fhon.
4. Daniel Rickard was adopted as a child and has never met or traced his Colombian family. He says representing the Hermanos will be a life-defining moment.
5. Juan Lara and friend Jesse Morales are Nicaraguan, but with their nation unable to field a full side, are helping out their compatriots from the tropics.
Squad: Scott Correa, Rodney Garcia, Andres Garzon, Frank Jacome, Sebastian Jacome, Jeff Lopez (UTS Tigers), Dahcell Ramos-Malo (Blacktown City, NSW), Roberto Tacuri, Juan Torres, Johnny Vasco.
Speed: Sancho and Geovanny Sanchez showed in a Latino OzTag tournament last year that they could turn on the afterburners. Can they bring it to the Rugby League field?
Power: Ecuador will be one of the smaller teams in the tournament, so the ability of barrel-chested co-captain Rod Garcia to play a tough, but smart game will be central to the outcome.
Skill: Scott Correa was spotted by Latin American Rugby League co-founder Matthew Brown while playing touch football in Ecuador. Word is he can mix-it-up.
Heart: Definitely no shortage of this quality on the Ecuadoran team, but pint-sized hooker Jeff Lopez epitomises it, snapping at the heels of forwards in the NSW universities competition.
1. The core of the team is formed of long-time family friends from a tightknit Ecuadoran community that grew up around Sydney’s southern and eastern beaches.
2. As such there is a passionate internal rivalry between the players that follow the Roosters and the players that follow the Rabbitohs in the NRL.
3. Forward Johnny Vasco is an architect in Sydney’s city. His family is from the town of Patate in Ecuador, not far from the western reaches of the Amazon Jungle.
4. Juan Torres is an assistant manager at The Star entertainment precinct and discovered Latin American Rugby League after attending the Fairfield Council Culinary Carnival in 2014.
5. Dahcell Ramos-Malo is one of the success stories of the GYG Latin Heat youth program, graduating from Harmony Cup (U16) and Redfern Nines (U18) squads.
EL SALVADOR (El Trueno Azul)
Squad: Alvaro Alarcon, Junior Alarcon, Michael Alarcon, Fred Arteaga Figueroa (Blacktown City, NSW), Tyson Garcia, Jonathan Godinez, Frank ‘Paco’ Godinez, Miguel Gonzalez (Tuggeranong Buffaloes, NSW), Josh Guzman (East Hills Bulldogs), JC Mendez (South Eastern Titans, VIC), Eric Orellana, Roque Perez-Mejia, Eddie Ventura (West End Bulldogs).
Speed: This is where early tipsters are saying ‘The Blue Thunder’ could catch out the bigger, more experienced teams like Chile and Peru. The Alarcon trio will need to be guarded closely.
Power: You have to see the Guz-zilla – Josh Guzman – to believe a young Latino could grow so big. Dwarfs many of the senior players in the team.
Skill: Clouds hang over the availability of ball-playing talents Miguel Gonzalez and Eddie Ventura, which will put the onus again on zippy brothers Alvaro and Michael Alarcon.
Heart: JC Mendez is a church youth leader in Melbourne who will wear number 9 in this game to honour Victorian Rugby League’s Ray Ertl, who passed away last year.
1. El Salvador is the most successful stand-alone Latino nation to date, progressing to the quarter finals of this year’s Cabramatta International Nines.
2. JC Mendez stands an imposing 193cm and 110kg. A giant by Central American standards, he only took up the sport four years ago but is rapidly improving.
3. Wrecking ball Roque Perez-Mejia previously played with Brothers in the Darwin competition. The daredevil rigger is often photographed in high-up places in far-flung locations.
4. The Godinez-Guzman-Gonzalez families are all intertwined and pivotal in the Salvadorans bringing a close-knit feel to their events.
5. Frank ‘Paco’ Godinez admitted in January that his family was carjacked at gunpoint on his first day at school in El Salvador, leading to them eventually fleeing the country.
PERU (Emperadores Peruanos)
Squad: Juan Carlos Carrion, Corey Daniela, Sean Day, James Goncalves (Five Dock RSL, NSW), Paul Grados, Luis Guillermo Fhon (Mount Annan, NSW), Jonathan Julca, Jacob Parker (Alexandria Rovers, NSW), Aaron Perez (Mount Annan, NSW), Jye Sommers (Corrimal, NSW), Jonathan Xavier (Five Dock RSL, NSW).
Speed: Jonathan Julca, Corey Daniela and Jacob Parker were all late additions to a Peruvian side that is robust, but was lacking speed out wide. They’ll be expected to help out the big men.
Power: The Emperors are led up front by man mountain Sean Day, from the Olarte family in Lima. The S.H.I.E.L.D Security guard is also one of Latin American Rugby League’s leading sponsors.
Skill: Though he humbly understates his ability, Jye Sommers is a very well-rounded footballer and competes in all areas of the field. A prolific scorer in nines and sevens football for the Latinos.
Heart: Luis Guillermo Fhon might just be the most passionate Latino out of the bunch. Delivers heart-felt motivational speeches and pushes his body to the limit to honour his heritage.
1. Big bopper Juan Carlos Carrion is well-known on the car scene, with a passion for low-rider vehicles and Latino culture.
2. Corey Daniela has an Australian mother, American father and grandparents from Peru, Egypt and Malta!
3. Luis Guillermo Fhon and talented musician Aaron Perez are teammates for the Mount Annan Knights, grand finalists in the Campbelltown competition in 2015.
4. Veteran Sommers came to join the team after enquiring about buying a jersey for his Dad. His paternal bloodline is from the Ortega family of Callao, the seaport of Lima.
5. Brazilian youngsters and James Goncalves and Jonathon Xavier will play for Peru after their nation could not field a team. Aggressive Goncalves is under the eye of the Wests Tigers.
URUGUAY (Gauchos Uruguayos)
Squad: Michael Bolz (Tweed Coast Raiders, NSW), Matty Booth (Bondi United, NSW), Javier Britos (CVD Cobras, NSW), Matt Cama, Nicholas Cama (Wyong, NSW), Noah Cama (Naraweena Hawks, NSW), Miguel Falcon, Josh Gadea-Hellyer, Chris Gee, Damian Gee, Adrian Gela, Adam Kungl (Coogee Randwick Wombats, NSW), Michael Pizzorno, Andres Rossini (Mascot Jets, NSW), Christopher Santander, Eduardo Vega.
Speed: One of the quickest players in the competition, Adam Kungl, is in doubt with a knee injury. Off-the-mark, it’s also hard to get a jump on hooker Nicholas Cama.
Power: Strong runner Andres Rossini is a player who has been in the sights of Latin American Rugby League for over a year, but this will be his first appearance for the organisation.
Skill: Nicholas ‘Niko’ Cama was an applicant for the NRL Rookie TV show and plays with the successful Wyong Roos club on the New South Wales Central Coast. Will catch people napping.
Heart: The three Cama brothers will link with cousin Javier Britos, while mainstay Josh Gadea-Hellyer has recruited his cousins Chris and Damian Gee for the Gauchos.
1. The Uruguayans don’t have to look far for motivation – Parramatta Eels young gun Jason Vidal is of Uruguayan heritage and has sent his support to the team.
2. Teenager Javier Britos was captain of the GYG Latin Heat’s first-ever youth team. His father is Uruguayan and his mother is Vietnamese.
3. Josh Gadea-Hellyer has one of the most brutal front-on tackles when his timing is right. Will have to dig deep in the fitness department for sevens though.
4. Eduardo Vega is a cultural dancer who performs at various festivals and events throughout New South Wales and embraces his rich heritage.
5. Vega and teammate Adrian Gela have Argentinian blood, but will play for neighbours Uruguay in this event. Argentinian star Dan Navarro is unavailable due to exams.
4:50pm Ceremonial Walk Out by All Teams
5.00pm Minute’s Silence
5.05pm Chile v El Salvador
5:25pm Peru v Ecuador
5:45pm Chile v Uruguay
6:05pm Peru v Colombia
6:25pm El Salvador v Uruguay
6:45pm Ecuador v Colombia
7:05pm Cultural Intermission
7:25pm Combined Exhibition (Pool A 2nd/3rd v Pool B 2nd/3rd)
8pm GYG Latino Sevens Trophy Presentation On-Field
8.30pm Annual Latin American Rugby League Presentation (inside Cabramatta RLFC)
The efforts of Latin American Rugby League (also known as Latin Heat) are supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, S.H.I.E.L.D Security, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Jani-King Cleaning, SeriousAboutRL.com, Rugby League Team Manager 2015 computer game, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cabramatta Ink and Majestic Property Maintenance, and official teamwear sponsor Ryzer.
Official charities supported are Amnesty International and Live To Give Projects.