Rugby League Planet

By Matthew Brown, Date: 1/5/14

This weekend the representative round is occurring. Australia is taking on NZ, City is taking on Country and Fiji is taking on Samoa. As per usual a few individuals in media circles have come out expressing their dissatisfaction of the games which will occur.

I’m not going to go into detail about what they said because you probably know of and heard what these reporters have said. Instead I’m going to tell you a story of an International match I went to.

On the 18th of January of this year, I attended the Latin Heat vs Philippines International match at the Runaway Bay Sporting Complex. The Latin Heat is a representative team which represents South and Central American countries in Rugby League. This was their first blooded international and was going up against a Filipino side who boasted players from professional and semi-professional competitions in Queensland and NSW. The Heat players on the other hand had some experienced Rugby League players, but also individuals who had just picked up a Rugby ball a few months earlier.

By half time during the match the score was very one sided. The Philippines were up by 50 plus points with the Latin Heat yet to score. Although one would say the game was done and dusted, what I experienced made me realise what the entire match was about.

When the Latin Heat players got together for the half time talk, many of them looked tired and exhausted. One Latin Heat player stepped forward and said “Put up your hand if you are tired?” With heavy breathing, most of the players put their hand up in response to the question. The player who asked the question then said “Look boys…I don’t care what the scoreboard says, this is our first International ever, this is the first time we’ve gotten together and played together as a full team”. He then pointed to the Latin Heat logo on his jersey, “this is what we’re playing for…our culture, our family and our heritage. As long as you play your hearts out I don’t care what the final score is”.

In the second half the Filipinos were the stronger team. Although they were clearly the stronger team on the park the Latin Heat players did not give up. Every hit up, every tackle and every time they got close to the try line they were cheered on by the Heat players, fans and management. No matter how many points they conceded, the Latin Heat kept moving forward looking for momentum and were not disheartened by what had happened.

Eventually the Philippines took the game 114-0. At the end of the match both teams congratulated each other’s efforts and said a prayer at the end of the game. Both teams were graceful in victory and defeat, even when the Trophy ceremony occurred. When the Latin Heat players walked to their fans they were greeted by a big cheer. Even when both teams went for drinks at the Runaway Bay Rugby League Club, it felt like the Heat boys had won. There was not a feeling of disappointment or embarrassment, rather a sense of accomplishment!

What that player said, the after match exchanges between the sides and after match drinks made me realise what this match meant. It didn’t matter if they (Latin Heat) lost by two points or by 200 points! This was their first international. To just get 17 blokes with Latin American heritage on a Rugby League field for a full international was a success in itself! The match wasn’t just to watch a game of Rugby League but much more than that. Thanks to the match the players, fans and officials felt a part of something historical. Each and every player on the Latin Heat represented their heritage, country and culture with great pride. They felt glad that they were given the chance to do that in a Rugby League jersey and even though the score line told one perspective, the pros heavily outweighed the cons for the fixture.

There was also other benefits of the match. The Latin Heat gained much publicity for the match and helped identify more Australian based players with Latin Heritage to help them represent it through the team. Also there were Gold coin donations for victims of the Philippines typhoon disaster and for Amnesty International for their Human Rights work in Central and South America.

So for any individual who wants to comment in an International Rugby League match, I only ask them to think twice before they comment. The scoreboard may indicate what has happened in a game, but it NEVER reveals the full story!