Latin America, Thailand face off on June 1
In the words of the American rap artist Drake: "Started from the bottom now we're here."
They haven't exactly gone up too far but with the help of the NRL's research analyst Javed Hamidi, the Latin America Heat have named 15 registered rugby league players in their preliminary 20-man squad to take on the Thailand Stars in a rugby league international to be played at Windsor Sporting Complex on June 1.
A registered rugby league player is anyone who has a registration under a state-run competition.
And considering the Heat's last game – a 114-0 beatdown from the Philippines back in January – boasted just three registered players, the rise in numbers is a win for international rugby league.
"That's a combination of a number of factors, led firstly by the assistance of the NRL and RLIF (Rugby League International Federation) in identifying Latino-heritage players," Heat director Robert Burgin said in a statement.
"We've also benefitted from greater awareness in the community of the opportunities the Latin Heat provides. More pleasing than anything though is the number of previously unregistered Latinos that we have been able to encourage into playing weekly club fixtures. That's what we're all about."
Latin America will be led by Peruvian Jye Sommers, who runs out for the Corrimal Cougars in Illawarra competition, while Nicaraguan Jonathan Espinoza has recently played for Queensland University.
17-year-old centre Brendan Tobar was a previous winner of the League of Their Own segment on Channel Nine's The Footy Show, while Jaden Laing has been involved with the Wests Tigers' under-20s squad.
Thailand will arrive on Australian shores having defeated Japan 46-10 in January, and have recently provided scholarships for three players to learn the game in Australia.
The Latin Heat serve as an interim presence for 24 Latin American nations from Mexico to Chile until such a time that these nations can compete on a stand-alone basis.