Our next Latin American nation we take a look at this week is Ecuador.
Where it began?
Like most of the current active Latin American nations, Ecuador came as the direct result of the Latin Heat Rugby League and one of its co-founders, Matthew Brown.
After being inspired by his passion for both Rugby League and Latin American culture, Matthew thought it would be great if the sport were to begin in Latin America.
In 2013 after researching online he came across a person with similar ambitions in Brisbane named Robert Burgin. Robert explained he was attempting to create an Australian based team, which would represent the whole of Latin America in Rugby League. Believing this to be a good idea, Matt decided to get involved and started to help volunteer for the organisation at matches and behind the scenes as well.
Soon after, he met his soon-to-be-wife (who was Ecuadorian) and decided to specifically assist the development of the sport in Ecuador.
Ecuadorians have had players and individuals involved with the Latin Heat and the national team since 2014. Some of the most significant individuals include;
Rodney Garcia– First Ecuadorian Latin Heat player and inaugural co-captain of the Ecuador national side. Rodney (based in Newcastle) would usually drive 3 hours down south to Sydney to attend training sessions and matches for both Ecuador and Latin Heat. He played his last match for the Incan Rugby League team earlier in 2017 against Sydney University.
Jeff Lopez – First Ecuadorian Latin Heat player and inaugural co-captain of Ecuador. Jeff plays regular Rugby League for UTS Tigers and helped his team win the NSW Tertiary Reserve Grade Grand Final in 2017.
Will Gomez– Current Ecuadorian Captain, Latin Heat player and inaugural co-captain of the Incan Rugby League team. He also represented the Cucarachas (Latin Heat NSW Representative team) against the QLD Sapos in the Inaugural Latin Heat State of Origin match.
Edgar Alfredo Santamaria – Ecuador, Incan, NSW Cucaracha and Current Latin Heat Rugby League Development Squadplayer.
John Vasco– Ecuadorian, Incan and NSW Cucaracha representative player.
Sebastian Jacome– Ecuadorian, Incan and NSW Cucaracha representative player. Sebastian played alongside his father Frank in the inaugural Ecuador team in 2015.
Dahcell Ramos-Malo– Ecuador, Incan and Latin Heat representative player. Dahcell was the first Ecuadorian player to play for the Latin Heat Youth team.
Byron Serrano– Former Latin Heat Youth Coach, Ecuador Rugby League coach and heavily involved for the Redfern All Blacks Rugby League team. Byron was the first Youth Latin Heat coach to help coach the side to the Semi Finals in the 2016 Harmony Cup.
Ecuadorian National Team takes Off
The first time Ecuador players represented the Latin Heat was in 2014. Rodney Garcia and Jeff Lopez were involved in this match where the Latin Heat drew 16-all against the Thailand Stars in Windsor. Since then they have had numerous players represent the Latin Heat and even had four players in the Inaugural NSW Cucarachas team in May 2017. John Vasco, Sebastian Jacome, Will Gomez and Edgar Santamaria played in this match representing Ecuador.
In October 2015, Ecuador fielded its first independent team at the inaugural Latino 7s tournament at Cabramatta RLFC. They defeated Colombia 18-0 and lost to Peru 18-0. They then played Colombia in June 2016 and won the Inaugural Copa del Norte against Colombia winning 24-18 over a two-game 7-a-side series at Newtown. Their next appearance would be at the 2016 Latino 9s at Hammondville Oval where they suffered large defeats to Uruguay and Colombia.
Their latest match was a combined Incan team (Nations of the Former Incan Empire) against Sydney University at Liverpool All Saints in February, 2017.
Domestic and Community Efforts
There have been efforts to help commence the sport in Ecuador itself. In 2015, Latin Heat co-Founder Matthew Brown travelled to Ecuador for six months to do just that.
Along with helping to co-ordinate the Australian based Ecuador team for the 2015 Latino 7s, Matthew tried to start the sport up in the motherland. His main achievement was forming a partnership with Touch Rugby Ecuador. Since Rugby in general is small in the country, it was rationalised that the two organisations working together made sense. Coincidentally, Matthew met one of Ecuador’s future Rugby League players (Scott Correa) while playing Touch Rugby in Quito.
When he got back to Australia, he assisted in forming a Community Partnership with the Australian Ecuadorian Community Association (AECA) and inviting the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the Latin Heat match against Thailand Stars in Canberra in January 2016.
Since then, progress for starting Rugby League in Ecuador has been stagnant. It is hoped that a domestic competition will begin in time for the 2021 or 2025 Rugby League World Cup qualifiers (which is a pre-requisite for any national team wanting to compete in a World Cup). With Ecuador’s Latin neghbours such a Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile taking up the sport, it is hoped that future international fixtures with Ecuador’s neighbours could occur.
Ecuador Rugby XIII Facebook Page