“After my second or third domestic game with them [Thailand Tigers], one of my teammates asked me why I hadn’t attended any club functions after the game. So I showed my return ticket to Chiang Mai. They said I was crazy to come all the way from Chiang Mai to play Australian Rules football!”
Rut Ngarmariyakul takes us back to the past, when he first became a member of the Thailand Tigers Australian Rules Football Club.
If you mention Australian Rules Football to anyone in Thailand, or pretty much anywhere outside of Australia, and you will find most people have little or no idea about the game. This makes it even more unique for Rut to be so heavily committed and involved in the game. At the moment he is the teams only 100% Thai player, and he is doing his best to change this.
Ruts interest in Aussie Rules football began when he was studying for his Masters Degree in Melbourne, Australia. Here, football can be likened to a religion, with the sport being hugely popular and pretty hard to ignore. Rut slowly learned the rules and understood the fabric of the game. That is when he started falling in love with It.
“When I first watched this game, I found it so confusing. I didn’t understand the rules. I watched it until I understood how the game is. I found that it is a fast and non-stop game. Also, they need a lot of different skills to play this game. This made it interesting to watch. Also, I found my favorite team (sadly and foolishly Rut chose the Western Bulldogs). So I had fun with the game and got more involved.”
Even though he loves this game so much, Rut never played during his time in Australia. When he came back to Chiang Mai, he watched the games on the Australia Network and followed news update on the internet. Until one day he found out about an Australian Rules Football team in Bangkok, the Thailand Tigers, on a website. It was then that the idea of playing this game had arrived.
“When I found our Footy Club, I sent an e-mail to everyone who had a contact on the website. I just wanted to support the team. I wanted to know when they will play, and where. I just wanted to go there and watch the games. Then one of them replied to my e-mail. They sent me the team newsletter. BANG !! I was so happy”. Rut was welcomed to the club and got the opportunity to play Aussie Rules football.
“I couldn’t even play the game when I first joined the club. I got some game time playing in International matches against other countries. I had a tour with the team and played in many tournaments. However I felt like I was not able to do enough to help my teammates on the field. I wanted to help my team more.” Rut trained harder and got help from his teammates to improve his game. His form continued to improve.
Rut has nothing but positive feelings about his club. The membership comprises mostly of expat Australians, along with some Tasmanians, and others from countries such as Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. Rut said although the Thailand Tigers is an amateur football club, the club is well managed and operates like a professional sporting team. Training sessions are planned with an outlook for both International and Domestic games, along with some excellent social functions along the way (though don’t bring your telephones). Rut feels the combined fitness and social aspects are a good example for Thai sports clubs to follow.
When asked about what makes the sport of Aussie Rules so good, Rut replied “This is a tough game. It is a full contact sport. Players tackle each other hard from the first bounce to the final siren. However when it’s over, it’s over. Everyone respects each other. They respect the rules. We shake hands when the game is over. Then we hang out together.”
Although Rut hasn’t worked in the field that he studied and graduated, playing football is something he does for himself. It is his true love and passion; “When I am with the team, I feel like I am surrounded by a great bunch of people. I meet people who like Footy. People who have passion for Aussie Rules like me. I am what I am. I’m happy with that.”
Rut wants to continue improving, and pushing himself further.
“Someone asked me, ‘Is it worth doing this? It is worth flying to Bangkok to play this game with our club?’ Why do I do that even though there’s no salary and I get hurt all the time? Yes, my shoulder tendon was tearing apart from a hard tackle until I need an operation to fix it. Who cares? I do this because I love the game.”
Rut graduated from the Faculty of Humanities (Majoring Mass Communication) at Chiang Mai University, and has a Master of Creative Media (Film and Television) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT). He also takes care of his family business, and manages to find time for training and playing for his Thailand Tigers all year long. This Month (October) Rut and team attended the Asian Championship 2014 against 9 other Australian Rules Football teams in Clark (Angeles City), Philippines. Although they may not have won the tournament, the club won the respect of their opponents and let the way in off-field celebrations.
Coming up next for the team there’s a tour to Chiang Mai for a Thailand Tigers Domestic game on November 15th. This will be the first Australian Rules football match in Rut’s hometown.
For more information and details of upcoming Tigers events and games, please visit www.thailand-tigers.com.