TOMORROW Papua New Guinean rugby league fans will be doing something they rarely do when it comes to barracking for their teams. They will be doing so with a sense of genuine confidence their side will, and can, come out victorious. The Hunters certainly showed everyone, particularly Australian commentators and fans, that they belong in the Queensland Cup when they went into enemy territory to open their account in the best possible way with a 24-18 hosing of the Redcliffe Dolphins last Saturday. It was a performance based on consistency (throughout the 80 minutes of football), something PNG teams have struggled mightily to come to terms with ever since the national side first played in 1975. That match, almost 40 years ago, was against a touring Great Britain side at Port Moresby’s iconic Lloyd Robson Oval. The score-line was 40-12 to the visitors. Have sides from this country improved over that time? It is debatable. Some would say there have been spots where the Kumuls have looked likely to be on the verge of taking a significant step forward in their development but because of inconsistent form and an ineffective administration, compounded with a lack of funding, has always held PNG back – until now with the creation of the Hunters. Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said he was genuinely impressed by the Hunters and the display was everything the Kumuls’ World Cup efforts were not – clinical, structured and mistake-free football was the final frontier national sides need to conquer. If the Hunters can do that then they will become the rallying point for a sports-loving public. The mantra of sports as a unifying element in this diverse country is an important one and in truth loyal fans will back any code that walks the walk. But rugby league is perhaps the undisputed leader when talking about a code that brings everyone together. It may not be in the coveted National Rugby League, arguably the world’s best professional competition of that code, but playing and being competitive at this level is not just a step in the right direction but a sizable jump. Nevertheless the point of frustration here is that this country has always had the playing talent to be successful. Now the world has a chance to see something better. The world only got to see a glimpse of that raw talent. Marcus Bai is an example of what Papua New Guinea footballers can achieve. And he did not even start playing until he was almost an adult. An NRL premiership (1999) and a British Super league title (2004) plus legendary status for the Melbourne Storm is what the unassuming man from Ulamona, West New Britain, achieved after first picking up a football as an 18-year-old. Bai is still our best export and poster boy for living the NRL dream but after watching some of the Hunters players go around at Dolphin Oval there are others who could rise up and carry the torch. Israel Eliab, Thompson Teteh and Adex Wera are home grown players who are performing. Consistency is the key. Having three brilliant games over a 24-game season is not something to boast about. But playing to a high standard week in week out and then stepping it up to another level when the stakes are high is what separates the good player (Q-Cup standard) from the player who belongs in the next echelon of performers. It is early days yet for Michael Marum’s roster but with every game won and every opposition left lying in the Hunters’ wake, it will not be long before another star emerges. We have a few candidates, they just have to stay on the trail. Being the national sport, rugby league, occupies a special place in the minds of Papua New Guineans. With that elevated status comes expectation and so far the expectation has always outstripped performance. Things could be changing for the better and tomorrow’s game will tell us whether the round one victory was a flash in the pan or something more permanent. The Kumuls have gone two World Cups without a win. To say they have been a disappointment is an understatement. The Hunters give us the chance to set the record straight.
MOROBE Governor Kasiga Kelly Naru has commended two non-government organisations for building a footbridge in the Kabwum district.
Naru said the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme PNG (TKCP) and the Yus Conservation Organisation (YUS CO) had done an excellent job in building the 81m-long steel bridge without any government support.
“These two NGOs have shown a lot of initiatives to complete a footbridge project on their own with funding from donor partners,” Naru said.
“I am pleased to see such efforts as it shows NGOs are working well in the rural areas of Morobe in partnering government in development issues.
“Too many times, people complain about lack of government services but not seeking assistance from other development partners with the advice of local active NGOs like TKCP-PNG and YUS CO.
“The Morobe government is interested in supporting projects whose collaborators take the first step.
“When we see that these people are energetic in achieving their goals, we will support them from the next step onwards on the road to their aspirations.”
Naru said the TKCP was an important conservation programme targeting preserving the number of the Matschies tree kangaroo, an endangered species which is local to the Huon Peninsula.