Abau dons national colours for both rugby codes


COMING from the suburb of Hohola, HelenAbau has made a name for herself as a dual international for Papua New Guinea in the codes of rugby league and rugby union.
This is a success story for the only Papuan female to break through the Highlands-dominated Papua New Guinea Orchids national team for the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in Sydney.
For 26-year-old Abau, a current Palais rugby union player,the transition to rugby league paid off when she was named incoach Dennis Miall’s 21-member Orchids World Cup squad, with the games kicking off in Sydney yesterday against England – Thursday, Nov 16.
Abau hails from Yule Island inKairuku, Central and has represented PNG in rugby unionwomen’s sevens starting in 2014.
She is still a member of the Palais and was an automatic inclusion for the recent Seven World Cup qualifier in Fiji. However, she had to turn that offer down due to her selection in the rugby league PNG Orchids side.
The Central woman was initially identified by Moresby South Rugby League vice-presidentBageloSolien to play for his Gabutu Dragons side this year and it didn’t take long for her talents to be noticed in rugby league. She was quickly selected in the Moresby South team for the Southern Confederate trials earlier this year and was duly rewarded with a place in the Southern Confederate training squad and made the team to the National Championships in Lae in August.
Abau’s ability as an all-rounder in the backlines (wing, centre and fullback) ensured her selection.
She said making the transition to rugby league took time but she was enjoying the code and learning how to play.
“Even though I played rugby union and represented the country in sevens, switching to rugby league was and still is a big challenge,” Abau said. Other players like Carol Humeu, Joan Kuman and Cathy Neap have also represented the country in rugby union while squad member Martha Karl was a member of the national women’s Under-20 side at the Fifa Women’s U20 World Cup staged in Port Moresby last year.
Abau said the round ball sport was her first love. She played for Guria FC in 2012 in the Port Moresby Soccer Association.
“I live at Hohola 4 and played a bit of rugby league in the Hohola off-season competition for Taraga Dragons,which other Palais players,YarowenaMorofa and DulcieBomai introduced me to in 2013.
“This convinced me to play rugby union with the Spartans and rugby league for Hohola Flies,” Abau said.
“My father Gerard (Abau) played for Hohola Flies during the old PRL days and I followed him and watched the games so I always had an interest in the sport.”
Abau made her Palais debut in 2014 at a sevens tournament on the Gold Coast and that was followed with another selection to play in Fiji.
Abau said she had experience success playing club rugby and for the Palais but playing for the Orchids was on another level to come by.
“My biggest challenge was the test against the Australian Jillaroos on September 23 and although we lost (42-4)I gained a lot of experience and was proud to be involved with the national women’s rugby league side in their first game.”
She said their winning the World Cup warm-up match (30-6) last month (Oct) in Innisfail, Queensland, against a Far North Queensland side was a boost for the team but there was still a lot of work to be done for women’s rugby league.
She, along with her teams mates are now faced with the mammoth task of training ahead of the World Cup.
“We are all making our debut and it will be very challenging for us to play the best from other countries.
“This will not be an easy mission as we have to play to the best of our abilities and to win or lose by close margin is better for us.
“We’ve learned a lot after playing the Jillaroos (Australian women’s national team) which was an eye openerbut we gained some experience and confidence that will prepare us well for other upcoming games.”