NRL Australia

Michael Chee Kam’s Career Of Resilience

Growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, Michael Chee Kam wouldn’t begin playing Rugby League until he was 15 years old. Developing a love for the game, he dreamed of playing first grade in the NRL one day. After many obstacles and setbacks, this weekend’s Preliminary Final between his South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers will mark his 100th NRL first-grade game.

Not long after switching from Rugby Union and with having just couple of seasons playing Rugby League for the Mount Wellington Warriors, Chee Kam received the opportunity to join the Melbourne Storm’s SG Ball team at the age of 17.

Being young and his first time in Australia, he battled constantly with homesickness. Would spend just a year in Melbourne, where Storm arranged for him to stay with two other rising stars at the time, Kirisome Auva’a and Tohu Harris. With all the challenges faced, that one year shaped who he is today. In addition to playing and training, he spent long hours travelling to complete a carpentry tafe course. The sacrifices made throughout helped instill a strong work he possesses today.

Source: @michaelcheekam/Instagram

Upon returning home to Auckland, Chee Kam was given the chance by the Canberra Raiders and joined their Toyota Cup squad ahead of the 2010 season. His manager would assist in relocating his family to Canberra at the time, which helped him overcome the homesickness he had previously experienced.

Having the support system in his family around him, Chee Kam would have success and personal accomplishments during his tenure with the Raiders. In his first year, he earned his spot in the Australian Schoolboys team, and later worked his way into a regular role in the Raiders’ Holden Cup squad.

Following the decision to join the Manly Sea Eagles in 2013, he made every effort to leave the Raiders on a good note in 2012.

Chee Kam would have a great final season at the Raiders and played a significant role in the Raiders qualifying for the 2012 Holden Cup Grand Final. Early in the first half of the grand final he tore his AC joint off the ligament. He persevered through and finished the game, displaying his toughness and perseverance.

Raiders would go on to lose to the Wests Tigers, however whilst the season didn’t end on the note he wanted, Chee Kam’s individual season didn’t go unrecognised. As he would be named in the 2012 NRL National Youth Competition Under 20s Team of the Year.

Source: @michaelcheekam/Instagram

Unfortunately, coming off the injury in the Grand Final to join the Sea Eagles he was forced to miss the entire preseason to recover. By some terrible luck, he tore his meniscus in his knee during the first contact session back, putting him behind schedule and keeping him out for longer.

Later that year, through the NSW Cup, he would return and get the opportunity to play some football. But a syndesmosis injury would put an end to his season.

After recovering from the syndesmosis injury, Chee Kam returned for half of preseason training in 2014.

During the preseason he showed enough to earn a spot in Manly’s Auckland Nines squad. Unfortunately the bad run of injuries continued, as in the later stages of the Nines tournament he suffered a dislocated elbow.

All injuries had been impact injuries, nothing but bad luck. Whilst causing setbacks and leading to him questioning everything, he never gave up and never lost belief.

He made his return in the middle of the regular season through the NSW Cup. Over the weeks he grew in confidence every game. Building back trust in his body again and gained consistency back in his football.

Months later, his perseverance, dedication and commitment all paid off. As Chee Kam would realise dream on September 6, 2014, and make his NRL first-grade debut in Round 26. Coming off the bench for an impressive performance in Townsville against the North Queensland Cowboys.

Source: @michaelcheekam/Instagram

The following year would be his last at Manly, where he would play four first grade games over the season. Most importantly he got through injury free and took confidence with him as he headed to the Wests Tigers in 2016. 

Chee Kam would go on to quickly earn his spot as a regular in the first-grade team for the Tigers.

Through his 89 games with the Tigers, he would develop as a player and make some memorable moments, such as scoring two game-winning tries throughout 2019. A 35-metre game-winning try in the last minute against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp in Round 5 and another against Rabbitohs in Round 15. He would also place as a finalist in both the club’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year voting. As well as, become an international representative player for Samoa, debuting against Tonga in the Pacific Test at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Source: @michaelcheekam/Instagram

The South Sydney Rabbitohs saw something in him and would sign him for the 2022 season. A welcomed addition to the squad, his season has seen highs and lows throughout.

Suffering an injury in Round 1 from one of the discs in his back pinched a nerve, requiring surgery. After being out for a few months, he returned in Round 17 but suffered a broken thumb in the first tackle of the game. He had it strapped and continued on, but in the final 10 minutes, his pinkie on the other hand got dislocated and came out of the skin. Putting him out for another month.

The unfortunate run of injuries only served to increase his motivation to end the year strong. His recovery came at the perfect time for South Sydney, as he was there when they needed him most.

Originally named 18th Man for the Elimination Final against the Roosters, he would be activated during the game and called upon to see out the finish of the game. In what would be his finals debut after nine years playing first-grade, he would help Souths advance to the next week of the finals.

He would be needed for their Semi Final this past weekend against the Cronulla Sharks. Chee Kam took the opportunity with both hands. Proving his value and showing his versatility, Chee Kam played 33 minutes covering in the forwards and at centre on occasion during their 38-12 victory. 

South Sydney know the value and experience he brings both on and off the field and the consistent performer he is, which has seen him earn a contract extension for 2023.

After a career that’s seen him admirably overcome every challenge, thanks to the inspiration of proudly representing his family each time he steps on the field, Chee Kam will get to achieve the milestone of 100 NRL games this weekend. 

From taking part in his first final series, reaching 100 NRL games, the opportunity to make a Grand Final, to the chance of representing Samoa again this year at the Rugby League World Cup, 2022 will be a year to remember for Michael Chee Kam.

NRL AustraliaSports

Luke Waskowski is an experienced journalist from Australia in covering everything from Sports, Music, Entertainment, etc. Features on websites such as this one and and has done work on and also featured in magazines. Twitter: @LukeWaskowski