A multinational rugby journey for Filipino-Australian sporting star, Craig Wing
Story by Minh Nguyen and Anisha Mistry
When he played footy with friends in his Maroubra neighbourhood while growing up, Filipino-Australian NRL legend Craig Wing never thought that he would be a professional rugby player for 18 years.
Since joining his first rugby league team at four, and his first rugby union team aged seven, Craig has had a highly successful career, including playing for the Sydney Roosters, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the NSW State of Origin Team, and the Japanese National Rugby Union Team.
“I guess the thing that really shaped my career was making my first debut for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the team that I had supported my whole life,” he said.
“That’s the very thing that put me on track for me and shaped the direction that I was going to take in my life.”
Throughout his rugby league career, Craig played over 250 first-grade NRL games, which also saw him part of the Sydney Roosters team to win the premiership title in 2002.
In 2009, he decided to make the move to Japan to play rugby union, and after three years of residency, Craig qualified to play for their national team.
However, his switch over to rugby union also attracted interest from the Philippines National Rugby Union team, a team that he qualified for through his Filipino heritage from his mother’s side.
“I did get approached by the Philippines team, but much to my mother’s disappointment, I didn’t actually play with them,” Craig explained.
Japan gave me the opportunity to play real international football in a really professional environment, so I decided to go with them, but I did make sure that I never played against the Philippines while I was playing for the Cherry Blossoms.
While growing up in the Sydney Eastern suburbs, Craig was often made fun of by his peers because he looked ‘different’, but it was through sport that was viewed as equal to his ‘Aussie’ mates at school.
Growing up in this environment meant Craig did feel somewhat disconnected from his Filipino heritage; however, he did have the opportunity to live in the Philippines for a few months with his family, which allowed him to experience what life was like for his mum when she was a child.
“I remember we had to go out the back and pump the well that my dad had installed for water, because there was no running water at that time,” he recalled.
Previous to that, my mum and her siblings used to go down to the village and get buckets of water and then carry it on their shoulders and go back to the house.
“Then, when I went back at 21, everything had completely changed apart from my mother’s house, but now there was a major highway right beside it, and everything else was knocked down, and it was actually quite sad.”
Despite not fully acknowledging his roots while growing up as much as he would have liked, Craig still comes together with his fellow Filipino-Australian friends, where they will sometimes reminisce fondly about the traits typical to their Pinoy parents.
Having now retired from rugby league and union, Craig is now working on what’s next for him. Stay up-to-date with Craig and his continuing journey on Facebook HERE and Instagram HERE, or check out his website HERE.