STANLEY Gene’s advice to his charges should be heard by all other sporting codes in the country.
The Kumul coach told his players, currently in training camp at Ipswich for the Four Nations, to remain confident and competitive and to use every game in the tour to impress talent hunters from the rugby league world.
Gene had said: “There are so many rugby league players in PNG waiting for the door to open so they can display their skills to earn a living and make something of their lives.
“I have told them to put themselves on a shop window and, maybe, their lives will change.”
At another time, he told the Kumuls to stop hero-worshipping the opposition and to take the field ready to do battle with the best, or the worst, of them.
This is no mere pre-match psychological drumming. These are facts. Gene should know. The diminutive Simbu had his life change for the better when he was selected to play for English team Rovers, which he did with distinction, for eight years. He was selected during a World Cup tour in England.
So, win or lose, this is the one time that every member of the team, the majority of whom are Kumuls debutants drawn mostly from the local league, has a chance to show off his skills and talents to the rugby league world. If they can give their personal best, chances are that their team will win and, as a bonus, the player might be selected to play with an overseas team.
This is not just for rugby league players, but for every other sport in the country.
Was Gene’s advice given to members of the Commonwealth Games contingent when they left for India?
Will one or more of them have landed on some talent scout’s palm, pad or notebook?
Hard to tell, but most likely not.
One thing is for sure. It is not for lack of talent.
There is so much talent in PNG in just about every sport, but there is such little appreciation or promotion of these talents.
There is, in PNG basketball – a now quite dead code – a young man or woman who is capable of making it to the top in the NBA in the United States. Individual excellence in that game has earned players like Michael Jordan US$9 million a year.
Somewhere in PNG, there exists a young man or two, whose boots could land him in the European football league. Excellence in that arena could earn the sportsman up to a million English pounds a year.
Young talents from smaller Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are already sponsored exclusively by soccer teams to play in New Zealand and England.
Why is it that PNG lags so far behind in these opportunities?
Those who run the codes know the answer.
Marcus Bai, Stanley Gene and Makali Aizue have played alongside and against the best in the world, not only for the sport but also because, at that level, they have made big bucks. Many more can follow in their footsteps if they aspire to it.
Sports is big business the world over. And, as in all businesses, only those who invest time and money, and who are dedicated and disciplined, will succeed.
In those areas, PNG seems to be singularly incapacitated.
While there is talent, PNG’s problem seems to be in management. Take the two big ones – soccer and rugby.
Soccer administration has had a running battle going back almost 10 years. The code has always been split with some associations backing one side for the position of president and the other supporting another individual.
A multi-million-kina first-class soccer academy outside Lae is under-utilised as a result.
The rugby league board is in similar dire straits with individuals on the board suing and counter-suing each other in court. There has never really been a period when the management and board not been embroiled in some controversy.
People like Sir Henry ToRobert and Sir John Dawanincura have been at the top of their respective sporting organisations forever, it seems. While not downplaying the huge contributions they have made in their areas, PNG’s performance at major outings such as the Commonwealth Games have been very disappointing. Smaller nations like Samoa and Nauru have bagged gold medals while PNG sends huge teams that return empty-handed all the time.
Again, it must be said that the talents are there. They were just not managed properly.
Perhaps, it is time the two knights made way for younger talents to take the lead.