Written by Robert Burgin
In a team of accomplished international representatives, it is the feats of 17-year-old utility Juan Casanova Campina which has given Brasil a kick ahead of Saturday’s rugby league duel with a Peru XIII. The game will be an international representative match as Peru are still completing their application to become a member of the International Rugby League therefore no world ranking points can be awarded for this game.
Casanova Campina has been named in coach Matt Gardner’s final squad to face the Peruvians at Hillier Oval, Liverpool in Western Sydney at 5 pm this Saturday (Feb 22).
In an added boost, he was also recently named in the Toowoomba Clydesdales Under 18 representative side, a fantastic accomplishment for a boy born in remote Aquidauana.
Aquidauana is right on the edge of the Pantanal, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s largest tropical wetland area, close to Brasil’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia.
Meanwhile, the Toowoomba Clydesdales is one of the most famous and traditional identities in rugby league, producing numerous past champions of the sport, including Wayne Bennett, Duncan Thompson and Sam Thaiday.
Casanova Campina has qualified for the Toowoomba side after spending a large portion of his upbringing on the Darling Downs, where he plays for the Oakey Bears.
Close family friends Hector and Heitor Hilberto, who also migrated from Brasil to the Darling Downs region and grew up playing rugby league, have also been selected in the Brazilian team.
“To be picked to play for Brasil and then for Toowoomba on consecutive weeks is two dreams coming true,” said Casanova Campina.
“It’s the first time playing for Brasil in 13-a-side, after representing them in nines late last year, and also my very first time making a Toowoomba representative side.”
Brazilian co-coach’s Gardner and Robert Burgin also have ties to the Darling Downs region, with Gardner playing one season for Goondiwindi, and Burgin spending his formative years at Harlaxton.
Former Super League veteran Gardner is one of several players in the side to have already represented Brasil in rugby union.
In an amazing feat, playmaker Lucas Vinas Vieira, who has played every game for Brasil in rugby league since 2017, is taking a 45-hour journey from his hometown of Maringa to arrive in Sydney for the clash.
Among the newcomers in the squad is Ravi Araujo, one of five players in the team with links to the north-eastern coastal city of Recife, and previously a union sevens speedster.
BRASIL SQUAD (Alphabetic order)
DE ARAUJO, Simon
DE FREITAS DOS SANTOS, Leonardo
VINAS VIEIRA, Lucas
Livestreaming to be conducted by Bar TV Sports on Brasil’s Facebook page, Peru’s Facebook page, and the Latin Heat Rugby League Facebook page.
Hillier Oval, Liverpool, NSW
2 pm Latin America v Malta (Under 16)
3.30 pm Latin America v Malta (Under 19)
4.45 pm Latin American cultural performances
5 pm Brasil v Peru (Men)
Brasil Rugby League is supported by Samba Times Digital Media, Tagarela Intercambios, KCTT Engineering and LoxtonBerg.com
Latin American Rugby League is supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, SHIELD Security and Dr Pickles Tattoo Aftercare.
Peru Rugby League is supported by SHIELD Security, Rugby League: Around The Grounds, ATIC Tax Agents, Beastwear and Fresco Marketplace.