Three years ago, a week before her 14th birthday, Andrea was introduced to rugby when her sister Perla took her to training at their local club in Luque, Paraguay.
Growing up, Andrea’s mother had worried that her daughter slept too much and was never on time, however, rugby provided her with a structure and she soon began to thrive.
“I never looked back,” the now 17-year-old told World Rugby.
“Rugby made me unstoppable because it taught me to see the positives in me, trust myself in the knowledge that whatever I set out to do I can do.”
Andrea has gone on to represent Paraguay’s under-18s women’s national team and has been selected to attend the country’s high performance centre.
But, just as importantly to Andrea, she says she has become a better person on and off the field, and an example of what you can achieve when you lead a disciplined life.
“Before rugby I had no goals,” she said. “When I started I set myself the goal of reaching high, making my family happy and proud.
“It made me more disciplined, responsible and helped me as person. Now, I am the example to follow for those who are starting in the game.”
Finding a family
Showcasing the positive impact that the game has had on her life as a Youth Unstoppable is an exciting opportunity for Andrea.
The Unión de Rugby del Paraguay became a member of World Rugby in 1989, and according to the latest published figures there are 2,953 registered male and female players in the country.
Andrea believes the women’s game is becoming more prominent but with many of the teams “scattered throughout the country” its promotion “still requires a huge effort and commitment”.
Hopefully, Andrea’s achievements can help to convince more Paraguayan women of the benefits that can be reaped from pulling on a pair of boots and running onto a rugby pitch.
Andrea herself was persuaded to do the same when she saw first-hand the sense of community that existed among Perla’s team-mates at Luque Rugby Club.
In reply to a question about what attracted her to the game following that first training session in 2018, Andrea said:
“Kinship, how everyone celebrates team achievements, how they love the game on and off the field.
“I was attracted to the people around the game.”
Since that first experience Andrea has discovered a loving environment in which she has been able to become the best version of herself.
“I found a family, a very different lifestyle,” she said.
“I set out new goals and being in the process and sharing every step of the way with my second family – team-mates, family and others — is great.
“Because we have the same dream, we focus on it. We know each other very well and know how to get the best out of each other.
“We help each other. My team is huge and we are family.”
Thanks to the support of her team-mates, Andrea has already made some special memories in her rugby kit.
But, her proudest achievement came in 2019, while playing for Paraguay U18 in a South American tournament in Chile. Andrea returned home to Luque with a bronze medal.
“[It] proved that with effort, everything is possible,” she said. “It was the first of, I hope, many more medals with my team.”
Andrea is determined to break into Luque’s first team soon and dreams of playing professional rugby overseas while representing the senior Paraguay national team.
The player the young hooker looks up to most as she works towards those goals is Australian Olympic sevens gold medallist, Charlotte Caslick.
“I admire her style of play,” Andrea explained. “She never gives up, each try, each tackle, how she helps her team-mates.
“I hope to one day by like her.”
As well as achieving Olympic success at Rio 2016, Caslick has also appeared at two Rugby World Cup Sevens. How would it feel for Andrea to emulate her idol with Paraguay?
“It would be huge, something to make us very proud,” the 17-year-old said.
“It would take the game here to its highest, allowing us to promote the game not only at home but internationally.”
Andrea’s journey to this point has not been easy, but she urges potential players to ignore any “derogatory comments” they might hear in order to enjoy what she believes is a beautiful game.
“Rugby is a pretty sport that teaches incredible values,” she said. “If [people] have a goal or dream, they shouldn’t abandon them at the first hurdle. They must take each opportunity that arises, knowing that nothing is impossible.”
Andrea was first introduced to rugby in 2018, when she was taken to a training session by her sister, Perla.
Their mother had worried that Andrea slept too much and was always late but she found a loving, family environment at Luque Rugby Club that has helped her to thrive.
Now 17, Andrea has gone on to represent the Paraguayan under-18 women’s national team, and returned home from a tournament in Chile in 2019 with a bronze medal.
That experience underlined what she could achieve if she dedicated herself to rugby and she says she has become an “example to follow for those who are starting in the game”.
Andrea, who plays as a hooker, has been selected to attend the Unión de Rugby del Paraguay high performance centre and hopes to break into the Luque first team soon. She also dreams of representing her country’s senior national team and playing professionally overseas.
She says that rugby has made her “more disciplined, responsible and helped me as person”, and she is keen to share that positive message with young women and girls in Paraguay and around the world.