League loses stalwart


THE SPORTS fraternity in the country is mourning the death of rugby league personality Timothy Lepa, who died in a car crash yesterday morning.
Lepa is best known as the man who started the Ipatas Cup tournament and coached the Enga Mioks over a number of years.
Lepa was killed when his car went off the road near Sasiang Farm along the Leron Plain in Markham district, Morobe.
Lepa was returning from Kainantu with his wife and child, who both survived the crash and are in a stable condition at a medical facility in Lae.
The crash happened early on Monday morning (around 1am).
Lepa’s success as an administrator saw him take up the coaching of the Mioks and he guided the side to last year’s Digicel Cup grand final as well as several top three finishes over a decade of involvement with the franchises.
He would go on to serve under Kumuls coach Michael Marum as an assistance last year and in previous years.
The news of Lepa’s death went viral on Facebook with many who knew the hardworking rugby league administrator sending their condolences to the family and the Enga Mioks.
Lepa was one of the most dedicated rugby league men, never being far away from the administration and mentoring roles he excelled in.
The PNG Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) expressed shock and sadness on the tragic passing of Lepa.
PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka said Lepa’s contribution to the development of rugby league was “immense”.
“Timothy had rugby league in his veins,” Tsaka said.
“He contributed immensely to the growth and development of the game over the past 30 years or so through his roles as chief executive of the most popular off-season rugby league competition — the Coca Cola Ipatas Cup — and as head coach of the Enga Mioks.”
Tsaka said Lepa was often outspoken about his views on the game and his comments were always respected.
“For the good of the game, we often had constructive debates on many aspects of the game,” Tsaka said.
“And I always respected his views and decisions.”
Tsaka extended his condolences on behalf of the PNGRFL family to his immediate family.
“It is very sad for me personally to pass our sincere condolences on behalf of the PNGRFL board, chief executive Reatau Rau and staff, the PNG Kumuls players and coaching staff, PNGNRLC chairman Adrian Chow and his staff, all Digicel Cup franchises and the rugby league family across PNG to the immediate families and relatives of Timothy. May he rest in eternal peace.”
Two prominent rugby league officials described Lepa as a “great character”.
Kumuls coach Michael Marum said Lepa had a strong character and was a man of conviction.
“Tim was assistant coach when the Kumuls played Fiji in the Pacific test last year in Sydney and his tireless contributions to the team were invaluable,” Marum said of Lepa when hearing the news upon arrival from Brisbane yesterday.
“We have been in touch regularly since then and we will all miss his great character.”
PNGNRLC manager Stanley Hondina said Lepa was a character in the game.
Last season, Lepa guided the Mioks to the minor premiership but went down to the Goroka Lahanis in the grand final.
“The loss in the game that mattered most did not faze him one bit,” Hondina said.
“He was hurting inside but showed that great character he had by humbly accepting the loss.”