FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL
Having fled his war-torn homeland and spent life in the jungle as a refugee before making it safely to Australia, See Nyo Myint is no stranger to a challenge and rugby league is reaping the reward of his determination to succeed.
WHILST the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Countries) XIII Rugby League geared up for another international match versus South Africa ‘A’ on the Gold Coast in July, spare a thought for their goalkicking player See Nyo Myint, who has travelled the hard road to represent his heritage.
Myint’s extraordinary tale of survival from fleeing war torn Kawthoolei (a disputed region of Myanmar, formerly Burma) to becoming a refugee in Thailand and eventually fleeing to Australia, is a triumph of the human spirit. Whilst many players are given a clear path into playing rugby league, Myint praises god and his former school friends for opening his eyes to the sport.
“I was born in the Mae-Sot border encampments (on the border between Thailand and Myanmar) for displaced Karen refugees.
“I am actually part of an ethic group (Karens) which was heavily monitored by the Myanmar military and subjected to a cruel dictatorship and oppression that made a lot of our people flee for a better life.”
Myint’s story of survival is shocking when he talks about the fear he and his siblings encountered whilst literally running for their lives.
“I come from a poor background back home where we actually lived in the jungle.
“We survived by growing our own vegetables, but we also had to hunt for our food if we were going to eat because we were so poor.
“I am one of ten children, so my mother and father had their work cut out for them in ensuring the children were able to eat.
“We had no money, no jobs and to make ends meet, we scoured the jungle for wild animals to cook or anything else that was going to feed our family.
“I can still remember the sound of tanks and planes shooting at us in the jungle that saw the Karen people constantly on the front foot.
“My parents were always on high alert so that we were kept safe and eventually we were able to cross over into Thailand and escape the Burmese military who were infiltrating the state.
“To make it over into Thailand, we had to be careful trekking through the jungle, because you just never knew what was around the corner.
“Trying to get ten children safely across a raging river was a battle in itself, but I suppose when you are running on adrenaline like we were, my mother and father made sure we got to the other side.”
Upon residing in Thailand for a few years, the Myints were able to seek refugee status in Australia.
“When we came to Australia, we didn’t speak a word of English, but we somehow adapted quite quickly.
“Apart from learning the language, I was curious about a game that was being played on the school oval at lunchtime by my classmates called rugby league.
“I watched as I saw the kids kicking and passing this oval ball around but were also being tackled to the ground.
“I wanted to be part of the game myself, so I worked up the courage to give it a go and joined in.”
Myint’s love of rugby league was instant and through some guidance by his former teachers, he hit the ground running and has never looked back.
“All my friends played for Logan Brothers RLFC which is the junior club of former Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith.
“I figured that if all my friends at school and in the neighbourhood were playing for Logan Brothers, then I wanted to as well.
“After a few years, I moved up to Toowoomba and played for the Pittsworth Danes club which is a really strong area for rugby league.
“But after a while, I wanted a change of scenery, so I headed over to Perth and ended up playing with the Kalamunda Bulldogs.
“People often forget just how tough rugby league is in Western Australia.
“But I got a bit homesick and returned to Brisbane where I was given a trial with the Souths Logan Magpies in the hope of playing BRL or Queensland Cup, but unfortunately, I wasn’t offered a contract.”
But, as one door closes another opens and Myint would soon be excited at the prospect of representing his heritage.
“I was contacted by a friend who had recently played for Thailand and suggested I put my hand up to represent them too.
“After reaching out to Rugby League Asia’s Geoff Bombell, I was given the opportunity that I was so desperately looking for.
“Geoff selected me to play for Thailand in February against Japan in Sydney and that experience of pulling on the Thailand jersey meant everything to me.”
Whilst Myint geared up for his second international against the South African Rhinos, having been selected in the ASEAN XIII squad, his passion for inspiring other Asians to take up rugby league is infectious.
“The beauty about rugby league is that it attracts players from all communities and all walks of life.
“Asian rugby league is here to stay, and we are slowly chipping away and making a statement.
“We want to be able to show others that through hard work, anything is possible, and I truly believe that rugby league in Asia is on the cusp of bigger and better things.”
Myint’s ambitious plans of one day seeing an Asian team face off against the Australian Kangaroos is not just a pipedream.
“You have to realise just how big Asia really is. I reckon we could easily come up against the Aussies in the future.
“When I look back and think about what I had to endure back home in terms of survival, to eventually representing my family’s heritage playing rugby league, I have to pinch myself.
“I owe everything to my parents for giving me a better life here in Australia and if it wasn’t for them, I may never have had the opportunity to play rugby league.
“We want to put Asian rugby league on the map and show people around the world that we are not just here to make up the numbers.”
First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 487 (August 2023)