An environmental engineer and data technician will make their International Rugby League debuts this Sunday, when Brasil faces the Philippines in Sydney for the Magellan Trophy.
Vinicius Guedes Silva and Rafael Melo are the two debutants in Brasil’s side, and are reflective of one of the sport’s most cosmopolitan teams.
Both university graduates, Guedes Silva and Melo come from two very different parts of Brasil.
While Guedes Silva was born in Sao Jose dos Campos in the nation’s largest state – Sao Paulo – Melo was born in Sergipe, Brasil’s 22nd largest state, which accounts for just one per cent of the 210 million people in Brasil.
A recent survey of Brasil’s domestic and internationally-based players found that 56 per cent of athletes had attended university.
Also included in those figures is forward Hector Hilberto, who is currently completing a dual degree in biological science and geological science, as well as running his own business, Minas Coffee.
Hilberto, who was born in the obscure regional town of Manhumirim (pop 20,000), will pack down alongside brother Heitor, who has university qualifications in international business and government relations.
Fittingly, Brasil’s major sponsor in rugby league is not a beer or gambling company – but a business invested in sustainable agriculture and carbon sequestration – Agrimix Pastures.
Second-rower Heitor Fleury, who has a Masters of Business Administration and a degree in agricultural engineering, works for Agrimix as a consultant.
Similarly, shorts sponsor Tagarela Intercambios, which specialises in migration and education, came on board as a supporter after helping athlete and lawyer Rodrigo Rezende relocate to Australia.
The composition of Brasil’s men’s team in many ways mirrors its female World Cup squad, which was confirmed earlier this week.
Among those players selected was Giovanna Xavier de Moura, a university professor who has had eight academic research papers published.
“Right from the very start, education has been important to us as an organisation,” Brasil Rugby League general manager Robert Burgin said.
“It might not assure victory on the field, but we think education and sport go hand-in-hand as pathways to improve your life outcomes, which is what we are most passionate about.
“If there is one child from Brasil who feels inspired to gain an education, get fit or try rugby league as a sport from witnessing what we do, that’s a win straight away.”
Sunday’s match against the Philippines at Kensington Oval will be the only top-flight rugby league game in eastern Sydney on the long weekend.
The clash represents a meeting of inter-continental powers, with the Philippines three-times Asia Cup champions and Brasil the current men’s 13-a-side Latin American champions.
Brasil will not decide its final 17 players until after training sessions on Friday and Saturday.
The match will be livestreamed thanks to the generosity of BarTV Sports and available on the Facebook pages of both competing teams, as well as the International Rugby League and Asia Pacific Rugby League
BRASIL V Philippines, Sunday 13 June, 3pm
Kensington Oval, Edward Avenue, Kensington, Sydney
Ravi Araujo, Donovan Barreira, Dylan Braga Nunes, Steve Braga, Juan Casanova Campina, Simon De Araujo, Heitor Fleury, Rubens Gomes, Vinicius Guedes Silva, Pedro Guzzo, Hector Hilberto, Heitor Hilberto, Connor Howison, Mark Jackson, Ricardo Levy, Rafael Melo, Rodrigo Rezende, Paulo Rubia
Richie Goodwin, Jhun Cortez, Ned Stephenson, Dennis Gordon, Thomas Cartwright, Jacob Godfrey, Marc Russell, Glenn Power, Paul Sheedy (c), Ryan Jones, Chris Murphy, Trent Kurnoth, Rez Philips, Tyrone Tootell, Dylan Jones, Jeremy Grooms, Gerald Reyes, Jonicho Hardwick