Remarkable league journey for Guk Riec

You might have heard some of the story behind the remarkable life of Valleys Diehards fullback Guk Riec, but you haven't heard the full story.

Riec's journey from war torn Sudan to being an African United star playing in the Rugby League Brisbane competition is one of the most incredible stories you're likely to hear.

Born in the Upper Nile Village of Reng in South Sudan, Riec comes from a close and loving family - but has endured some immensely tough times. Not long after he was born, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) passed through the Nile Village, sparking a war with the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.

This is where a young Riec's life would change forever. At just one month old, his mother Elizabeth was alerted to gunshots that were raining out over their village where the fighting had started.

Young Riec (wearing a hat) and his family. Photo: Supplied
Young Riec (wearing a hat) and his family. Photo: Supplied

Holding her young baby as tight as she could, the terrified mother grabbed her newborn baby Guk and his four older brothers and fled; seeking refuge in snake infested waters for the frightening days that lay ahead.

Tired, hungry and disorientated, by pure luck, Elizabeth, baby Guk and his brothers finally made it to a checkpoint where they would eventually be admitted to Egypt as refugees. Egypt would prove to be the safety and stability the Riec's needed in order to survive.

"I owe everything to my mother," Riec explained emotionally. "My mother, my aunty, everybody who has helped myself and my brothers I will remember that.

"My mother is a truly amazing woman for what she has done to look after my brothers and I, from working long hours as a cleaner to rescuing me from the war in Sudan."

Riec's father was arrested and placed in jail by the Sudanese Government for allegedly working for the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. In fact, he was actually aiding the rebel forces fighting for equality amongst the people.

After a few years in Egypt, Riec would be on the move again, this time being granted a refugee visa to live in Toowoomba in 2002, where Gak's aunt Sisilia was residing.

It was in Toowoomba where Riec was introduced to rugby league through one of his teachers at St Joseph's College, Scott Edwards, who saw potential in the young Sudanese boy.

Riec in action on the field. Photo: Supplied
Riec in action on the field. Photo: Supplied

Taking to the game like a duck to water, Riec would make inroads and headlines with his footballing ability, so much so he was handed a trial and pre-season with the Norths Devils.

Sadly, one of  Riec's older brothers was diagnosed with inoperable bone cancer and passed away not long after his diagnosis, a pain that is still fresh in his heart.

"My brother was a gifted rugby league and union player and he was a hero of mine," Riec said. "In my eyes, he could do anything, and I looked up to him."

Still at just 21-years of age, Riec moved to the Valleys Diehards and after a couple of eye catching performances for the men in royal blue and white, it was evident that he was destined for bigger and better things.

Riec has also further increased his skill level and fitness by being selected to play for the Australian Catholic University (ACU) team at Banyo campus.

His ability to perform at each new level he has experienced culminated with his selection in the 2017 African United side that played in the emerging Nations Cup in Sydney, suiting up alongside current Redcliffe Dolphin and countryman Obed Karwhin.

"That was probably the best time of my life being selected for Africa United," he said. "I was so proud singing the national anthem and being able to represent my country.

"I just wanted to make my Mum and my community proud and show them what I have achieved for the life she has given me in Australia.

"I just want to make the Sudanese and African people are proud of me. Hopefully, I can also become an African Rugby League ambassador for other Africans who want to play rugby league."

With players like Riec working towards their goals with the big smile on their face and the determination to never give up on their dreams; the future of African Rugby League is in good hands.

* Mike Simpson is a QRL correspondent who covers Rugby League Brisbane