By Robert Burgin, Date: 21/12/13

TWO blossoming rugby league teams servicing a combined population of 700 million people will bring international football to the Gold Coast’s Runaway Bay on January 18.

And what’s more, they will do it all for a gold coin donation for charity.

Hot on the back of the success of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, reigning Asian Cup champions the Philippine Airlines Tamaraws will go head-to-head with the Guzman y Gomez Latin Heat.

The GYG Latin Heat are the newest outfit in global rugby league, representing the combined nations of South and Central America.

Both teams form a vital link in spreading rugby league globally and taking the game to communities where rugby league is just starting to gain a foothold.

A great success story in a non-traditional environment, the Philippines are currently undefeated in 17-a-side football and boast NRL-quality players such as Kevin Gordon, Matt Srama, Andrew Everingham and Shane Gray.

Coach Clayton Watene’s Tamaraws have also been instrumental in raising funds for recent victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which tore through their homeland with vengeance.

Player Sean Lynch has set his sights on raising $A1million through the Everyday Hero fund and is well on track, with January’s game set to boost the coffers a little more.

Similarly, the Latin Heat will support their chosen charity, Amnesty International, which advocates human rights and freedom from unjust detention across Latin American nations.

Roughly half of the Latin Heat squad comes from refugee backgrounds, fleeing conflicts or political persecution.

Runaway Bay president Mike Smith said the Seagulls were ecstatic to be kick-starting the season with such an occasion.

“We’re obviously big fans of what rugby league can help people achieve in life and I think these two sides are great examples of that,” said Smith.

“The World Cup got us pretty excited and if we can help not only the growth of the game, but also the living conditions of people around the world, that’s perfect.

“Both teams will add a real cultural flavour to the evening with music and events and we’re encouraging people to bring the whole family.” 

While the Philippines will start the match with the edge in experience and profile, for many in the Latin Heat squad, just taking the field will be an achievement.

Some, like Uruguay’s Josh Gadea-Hellyer come from a remarkable background, with his father leaving Montevideo by boat and arriving in Sydney six months later.

Josh’s enthusiasm to represent the Heat was displayed when he travelled 2000km by car to compete in a nines tournament in October.

Aside from Runaway Bay others assisting the staging of the event will be Philippines Airlines, Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, Zignal Travels, Crop del Monte Coffee Specialists, RJH Consultancy, Rumba Latina Entertainment, Medipro Sports Tape and Medical, Gringo TV, One Tribe Filipino Tattoo, FILOZ, the Gold Coast Rugby League, Queensland Rugby League and the Rugby League International Federation.