2018 New Recruits – Ernesto Ugarte Villalobos
By Samuel Lindsay
It’s the 54th minute in the final fixture of the 2014 CONSUR Cup. The powerhouse of South American rugby, Argentina, is mid-way through a dominant performance against the 24th world seeded Chile in the nation’s capital of Santiago. At that point a 25 year old Ernesto Ugarte took to the field for his international debut, filled with pride and honour for his nation. For most this would be the pinnacle of a rugby career, but for Ernesto this fuelled him to take his rugby career to the next level. In 2016 Ernesto decided to make the 15 ½ hour flight to Brisbane to join up with North Brisbane Rugby Club. During his season in the sunshine state he linked up with Southern Districts favourite, Alex Gibbon amidst his stints with the Australian 7s and Queensland Reds squads along with former lock Kane Douglas. Following a return to Chile in 2017 and a second international cap against the USA the burley front rower has decided to make Forshaw Rugby Park his new home for 2018. We decided to chat with Ernesto about his aspirations and his rugby journey so far.
Hola Ernesto, welcome to Southern Districts! You’ve had the privilege of enjoying a beautiful Sydney summer, how have been keeping occupied?
“Hi, thanks for the reception. Yeah, the summer has been really good I’m living in Cronulla near the beach, it's a little bit hotter than the summers back home but it's alright. I’ve been working a few hours in the mornings and then doing some job hunting, I’m a chemical engineer with a skilled visa so I’m trying to find something in my field. Afternoons I’ve been training everyday with the club or by myself and when I have some time (especially on the weekends) I’ve been going to the beaches or some national parks around the city.”
How does Southern Districts compare to other clubs you have played for so far?
“The standard is really high in comparison with where I came from, (the club has been) really dynamic trying to improve our fitness and skills. The number of coaches is impressive and their knowledge as well, at least 8-10 coaches watching every session, teaching and giving advice. I try my best to hear every speech and advice they bring to the training sessions. The commitment of the players to the club is also a point to highlight.”
You spent last year in Queensland with North Brisbane Rugby Club, how was that experience and how did that help you settle into the Australian style of Rugby?
“The experience was amazing I’ll be always grateful to Norths, that’s my home back in Brisbane. It was a really good platform for me to improve, because I found a more physical and aggressive style of rugby, playing against big units like the Tongan, Samoan or Fijian boys, also the skill level is higher than in the Chilean competition. If you want to play you need to improve. Luckily I trained with some quality players and they have really good staff up there.”
Back home (Chile) you’ve spent many seasons playing for Old John’s Rugby Club, what made you decide to try out rugby overseas?
“Yes, Old Johns is the club of my life. I went there 10 years ago (when I was 18) to take my first steps in rugby. Today, rugby is part of my life; I want to be involved till I get older. That's why I came overseas, because here I can meet and learn from a better rugby level, not only on the field, but also the environment and development of rugby is huge. Back at home, unfortunately, it's only about football (soccer) and there’s not much room for other sports.”
You’ve also had the opportunity to represent your country, on a few occasions, how were those experiences and how have they helped you as a player?
“Singing the national anthem for your country is one of the best feelings I have ever had, representing your country is an honour but also a responsibility. Honestly, we didn't have good results in those games (Argentina in 2014 and USA in 2017). There were big differences between our side and theirs. But that only increased my desire to keep improving, take playing rugby more seriously. I realised that I didn’t want be just a “good” player back at home in the Chilean competition. So now, here I am, trying to learn what I can in a top-class rugby competition like the Shute Shield.”
You’re not the first Chilean to call Forshaw home, how has having a few fellow nationals helped you settle into the club?
“It’s really nice having more people from Chile here, they’ve helped me a lot in the early days, introducing me to the boys and helping me settle into a new club and city. They have been a great contribution to the club over the past few years through all the grades so I have the pressure of maintaining the fame of "The Chilean Crew" at the top of the club.”
If you’re excited about seeing Ernesto don the candy stripes this year, the best way is with a Southern Districts Membership. With a multitude of benefits on offer get yours today, here.