Umba keen to be like Olam

Umba plays at centre for the Dekomsi Tigers in the Mt Wilhelm rugby league competition. – Pictures courtesy of John Ambane

YOUNG men such as Umba Wamgul growing up in Chimbu today style themselves along their model – National Rugby League and Melbourne Storm star Justin Olam.
They want to become good rugby league players and be successful in their education to repay what their parents had sacrificed for them.
“Growing up in Chimbu today, everyone here has seen the rise and accomplishments of players like Justin Olam. He is someone who has become a role model not only in our rugby but in our education.”
Umba, 20, is from Kendumno village in Gembogl, Chimbu. He is the eldest in a family of four born to Agnes and Umba Philip.
Umba started playing rugby in 2017 while attending Gembogl Primary School in Grade Seven. He was later picked by the Dekomsi Tigers in the Mount Wilhelm rugby league competition.
At one stage, his parents tried to stop him from playing rugby league against teams from rival tribes, even calling police one day to stop Umba from playing.
Dad Philip was worried about how the sport would distract Umba from his studies.
“Umba is my eldest son and I have invested a lot in him to prosper in life academically. But it came to my attention in recent years about his desire to play rugby league. He’s very passionate about the game and that’s something we can’t take away from him.
“Finding that balance between school and rugby was something we all were trying to figure out because taking part in sports is good for any child.
“We drew the line with him after we learnt that he would be playing in games against teams from one of our rival tribes.
“We tried on numerous occasions to stop him from playing in the matches against rival tribes but that wasn’t going to stop him. So we eventually asked the police to stop him.”

“ Growing up in Chimbu today, everyone here has seen the rise and accomplishments of players like Justin Olam. He is someone who has become a role model not only in rugby but in our education.”

Philip knows that it is something any parents will do to ensure the safety and future of their children. But he remains supportive of his son’s decision.
“Even after he was stopped and brought home, that desire to play rugby league was still strong in him. I knew that we had to come to an understanding if he wanted to continue playing. I will support him in whatever way possible as long as he is keeping up with his academic performance.”
The passion for rugby league is nothing new to young PNG men and Umba is no exception. The PNG Rugby Football League has now introduced to the district restructured policies to develop the competition there.
Umba loves the sport and hopes to be successful one day like Olam. All young men in Chimbu do.
But after his parents’ intervention with the police, Umba realises that he also has a responsibility to his studies. He understands what his parents have been trying to do for him.
“My parents want the best from me and I’m grateful for everything that they’ve given me. I cannot thank them enough for the time, effort and resources they’ve spent on my education and my interest in sports.”
Umba understands why his parents are concerned about games he plays against teams from Kerowagi, Jiwaka and Mount Hagen. Some are from rival tribes.
“I admitted to my parents that it wrong and I’m doing everything I can to be a better son and rugby player.”
Umba hopes to be like Olam one day.

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