By PARKER TAMBUA
RUGBY League wasn’t the sport Timothy Lomai had dreamt of as he grew up an enthusiast of combat sports and martial arts and represented the country in kickboxing at 15.
Growing up in Yabob in Madang town, Lomai only associated rugby league with ill-discipline so he chose kickboxing instead.
It wasn’t until the age of 16 that Lomai’s older brother had talked him into taking up rugby league.
That was the start of what he had become, ending up playing three seasons with the SP Hunters and two tests for Papua New Guinea.
“I used to follow my big brother around at an early age,” Lomai told The National.
“He was a great front-rower who played some matches with the Globe Trotters and Madang Blacks.
“He actually convinced me to try rugby league with all his other mates. After a number of attempts, I finally got lured by my Tusbab Secondary School classmates to play rugby league.
“I had a go with Engso Warriors or LBC Warriors Under-19s when I was 16 and it was so good.
“I then went on to make the Madang U19 side for the Northern zone trials in Lae but unfortunately didn’t make the cut.
“After a few years, I came to Port Moresby in 2011 and took up studies at the University of Papua New Guinea and while there, I met (current PNG Kumul and former SP Hunter) Stargroth Amean who happened to be my course mate.
“He was with the Hela Wigmen that year.
“I told him (Amean) I was interested to join a team in the city and he invited me to join his club Comfort Brothers in the Hohola Offseason Rugby League.
“It turned out I was really good. That year, we played in the Ipatas Cup and we made it to the final.
“We played against Paga Panthers who were led by (former Kumul) Jessie Joe Parker and (former Hunter) Roger Laka.
“After that game, I got called up to join Port Moresby Vipers training squad. We had 60-man in the squad and they had to cut players every week.
“I was lucky enough to make the cut.”
From Pangia in Southern Highlands, Lomai made his Digicel Cup debut for the Vipers in 2012 but was only a fringe player all season.
The following year, the second-rower caught the attention of national selectors, having been named as a regular in the then Shane Morris and Leonard Tarum-coached Vipers side. The club won the Digicel Cup in 2013.
Lomai was selected to play in the Red-Gold selection trial for the Kumuls for the 2013 World Cup.
Lomai did not make the national side but he joined the Hunters as a 21-year-old in their debut Queensland Intrust Super Cup season in 2014.
Despite his short stint with the South Pacific Brewery-sponsored Hunters, he learned a lot as a player and role model.
“Professionalism was one of them, I had to really manage my image well,” Lomai said.
“I had to interact with people more and encourage young people about the positives of being an elite sportsman in the community. Being able to do the little things right and always push yourself to your limit were key aspects of the club.
“That has really helped me a lot even to this day. There’s no place for complacency.”
Lomai trained at legend Stanley Nandex’s kickboxing club and had four amateur title fights before turning professional in 2007.
He represented Madang and won a number of junior national titles.
At 15, he was given his first black belt and went on to represent PNG against the “rest of the world” in an eight-man Port Moresby tournament in which he won a title.
Lomai went on fight for the Oceania title in Sydney before joining the Vipers.
“I was drawn into combat sports because it’s more disciplined,” he said.
“It’s like a religion and you have to believe in something to win fights or to be the best contender.
“If it means you have to quit certain foods or refrain from indulgence, you have to totally do away with it.
“However the players who I came across in rugby league were different from what I used to. They are all rugged with scratches all over them and they share something beyond friendship.
“They were just genuine guys and I loved what they were passionate about which made me play rugby league.”