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By Robert Burgin | Photo SuziSeitz.com

One of six domestic players from Brazil who aims to travel to Australia to face South Africa on June 5 was among the scorers, as the first round of the BRL kicked off last weekend.

Urutau fullback Gabriel Domingues posted the Screaming Owls’ second try as they christened their new home, Estádio Municipal Moacir Tomelin, with a 30-22 win against arch-rivals Maringá.

Amazingly, all four Domingues brothers – Gabriel, Philipe, Victor and Lucas – scored on the same afternoon for the home side, which last year finished runner-up in Brazil’s men’s competition.

Gabriel is one of a half-dozen players who have submitted visa applications for the IRL-sanctioned international between Brazil and South Africa in Noosa, Australia on June 5 and is now anxiously awaiting news of its acceptance.

The effort should not be underestimated, with most players fund-raising the equivalent of a year’s minimum wage in Brazil to make the journey.

Former Maringá captain Diego Sanches Nogueira is another who is penciled in to make the transformative journey to Australia, but missed the opening domestic round because of work commitments which relocated him 2000km interstate.

Maringá suffered an additional setback when star half Lucas Vinas Viera injured his ankle partway through the loss to Urutau, finishing the game effectively on one leg.

Urutau led 16-8 at halftime, dropped behind 22-20 with 11 minutes left in the game, then scored two tries in the final 10 minutes to snatch the lead back.

Games between the two Parana State clubs have become a feature of recent seasons, often ending in fluctuating battles and played in a highly competitive spirit.

After seven men’s teams participated in the Nines competition at the start of the BRL season, this year’s Top Division will consist of just three clubs, with defending champion São Paulo Raiders the third contestant.

Fears of the top teams growing too strong for the bottom teams see moves afoot to introduce a Second Division league and/or localised leagues in major centres such as Rio de Janeiro, rather than all clubs competing in a national competition requiring extensive travel.

Similar growing pains have also been experienced in the women’s competition, where the postponement of the Rugby League World Cup and rugby union implementing two nation-wide female competitions (seniors and under 19s) have been additional hurdles.

Around 400 female players have been signed to rugby union clubs in the past six months.

Reigning female rugby league champion Melina opened the 2022 season with a commanding 82-14 win against last year’s grand final opponent Vitória Rhinos.

Maringá Hawks will supply the third club in this year’s female Top Division, with a Second Division structure also being planned to serve the five other female teams which competed in 2021 but have not nominated for the top tier this season.