John Butterworth a winger for the Souths Sunnybank Rugby League Club, made his debut for the Philippines National Rugby League (PNRL) at last year’s Cabramatta International 9s, his story growing up as an Asian-Australian Rugby League player mirrors the story of many of his brothers in the PNRL.
This is his story and reflection of the upcoming international match on the 18th of January between the PAL Tamaraws and the Latin Heat Rugby League national teams.
“The upcoming Rugby League International between the Philippines and the Latin Heat is definitely something special. Two countries being brought together by a game that is not considered a traditional sport in their home lands. Whilst I won’t have the opportunity to lace up the boots with my new found brothers, I still feel strongly about the game.
My support for the game and the PNRL doesn’t stem simply by being half Filipino, it goes deeper.
In 2003, I made a goal of one day representing the Philippines in a game of Rugby League. I was 13, a late bloomer, and in my first season of club Rugby League. For a child, hopes and dreams seem like they will eventually come true. As I moved into my teen years, I realised “how could I play Rugby League for the Philippines? Rugby League isn’t even played there and it’s not even really an international game!”
Childhood desires of becoming a doctor, a nurse, a professional athlete, famous musician fade until they one day they become a forgotten memory. Then one day, in late 2010, a random Facebook article sparked my interest. It read “Philippines enter team in 2011 Cabramatta 9’s.”
I wondered if this was the opportunity I dreamt about as a child. But I was grown up, 22 years old. I had commitments. I couldn’t drop everything for the sake of a childhood dream. Hearing about the success made me happy that a team of Filipinos had fought against the odds, attitudes and stereotypes of being too small, weak and soft to play the greatest game of all. I was happy, and hungry, hungry to be involved.
In 2012 there was a Brisbane based training session scheduled. I now had an opportunity. I hadn’t played Rugby League for 5 years. However I can say attending that first training was one of the best decisions I ever made.
In February 2013, I was able to achieve my child ambition. Running out for the Philippines at the 2013 Cabramatta International 9’s, and this will be a memory I will forever cherish. The PNRL community is essentially one big family, one that I am proud to be a part of.
Born in Australia to an Australian father and Filipino mother, I can say I did have those dreams of playing for the Brisbane Broncos, the QLD Origin team or the Australian side. Even though those accomplishments are at a level that I will never achieve, pulling on a Philippines International jersey is just as special.
The Latin Heat test match is one of many more games to come; meaning my journey with the PNRL is not yet over. Reflecting back on my time with the PNRL, I believe many other players shared a similar childhood dream. The game is making positive strides in the Philippines and the improvement in competitiveness of the minor nations at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup definitely showcased that Rugby League is truly a world game.
So as a forward, back, water boy, or spectator, I will be there cheering for the PNRL to support what they have achieved and what is to come. Watch out Rugby League world, the Tamaraws are coming!”
For those wanting to support the PAL Tamaraws, Philippines National team and meet Filipino-Australian NRL heroes Kevin Gordon and Matt Srama of the Gold Coast Titans. Come along to the International game against the Latin Heat on the 18th January at the Runaway Bay Rugby League Football Club, on Moralla Ave, Runaway Bay, Gold Coast, for a 7:00pm kick off!
Philippine Airlines Philippine Tamaraws Team List
1.Will Dreves – Mounties
2.Jeremiah Alimpulos – Pine Central Holy Spirit
3.Dennis Gordon – Gold Coast Breakers RUFC
4.Carlo Alinboyong – Southport Tigers
5.James Webb – Western Suburbs Magpies
6.Paul Sheedy – Tweed Coast Raiders
7.Ashley Black – Noosa Pirates
8.Glen Power – St. Claire Comets
9.Luke Srama – The Entrance Tigers
10.Arwin Marcus – Tweed Coast Raiders
11.Jason Dreves – Picton RLFC
12. Steven Tolo -Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles
13. Robert Geraghty – Eden Tigers
14.Scott Sandaga – Fairfield United
15.Micah Hines – Booval Swifts
16.James Marcus – Tweed Coast Raiders
17.Blaze Gonzales – Tweed Heads Seagulls
Coach: Clayton Watene
Assistant Coach: Mark De Ubago
Manager: Marc Leabres
Strapper: Mervn Heka
Leaguesafe: Kevin Gordon
Water Runner: Brain West, Carl Denhard
Stats: Steven Bernstrom