By JACK AMI
OIL Search Ltd Papua New Guinea Orchids prop Maima Wei made history for PNG when she scored the only try for her side against Australia’s Jillaroos at the National Football Stadium on Saturday, Sept 23. Going into the one-off test match, itself a historic event for the two teams, as the underdogs, anxiety played a major factor in the Orchids 42- 4 loss.
Wei told The National after the match that it was a big struggle for the players: “but from a nervous start-off we picked up momentum in the final 20 minutes denying the Jillaroos from scoring.”
“They outplayed us in the first three quarters as we defended solidly but the Jillaroos piled on points after points to 42- 0.
But the 4-pointer Wei scored under the uprights was something to celebrate by the PNG team who ran from all directions to congratulate the prop on her huge effort.
“My job is to score tries and I was there at the right time for Shirley Joe to give me shot pass.”
“The feeling was unreal, (I’m) just so humbled to be a part of PNG history and sharing it with my team mates, my country and having my family come and watch me play.”
“As a Christian country we put God first and foremost in sports and in life and I thank him for this amazing gift of life.”
“It was the first time for all of us girls and we were all nervous but more excited to be a part of history and what this meant for the nation as a whole in gender equality, and moving together in the right direction, and to stand together as a nation (#sanapstrongwantaim).”
“We are a new team and we have learnt a lot from the match and what level the standard of the game is being played at. We will go back into training with a better understanding.”
“Even my height is 168cm and weight at 100kg I tried to hit up with the bigger Aussies,” she said of the difficulties of playing against a bigger side.
Wei said she is looking forward to the 2017 World Cup in Sydney Australia in November.
“For the PNG Orchids, a fire has been ignited in all of us and we will give our best for this great nation.”
At 27, she hails from Dawa and Boromil villages in Simbu and studied civil engineering in New Zealand.
She is currently working for her family company PNG Steel Ltd and is a single mother of two beautiful children, Fiona and Mogerema.
She comes from a sporting family and was always involved in sports from a young age. Rugby was not her forte until she was approached by a stranger, now a friend, in Dunedin, New Zealand, to play rugby union.
On returning to her hometown of Lae, she switched to rugby league and since cannot shake it off. She played for Eriku Panthers and they won the minor premier and as well as the premiership last year.
“I was the northern confederate captain for three years until I moved to Port Moresby this year and got selected to play for the southern confederate.”
“I have played for JKT Lim Tigers and this year I played for the Hanuabada Hawks. We came third on the ladder and got knocked out by Souths.”
“I am excited to see women’s rugby league develop in the next five years now that there is a pathway and thank PNG NRL and our major Sponsor Oil search for making it possible.”
“I hope to be still involved in women’s rugby league even after I hang my boots.
Rugby league for Wei is more than just a sport.
“I want to use rugby as a medium for that voice against violence and make a difference. Any form of violence towards women, children and men is not on.”
After taking up rugby league, she has quit playing other sports such as swimming, basketball and powerlifting. One regret Wei has is that she didn’t start playing the sport earlier.
“Thank you to my family and friends and my parents Mogerema and Bomaigi Wei and my Northern Confederate Director Russ Kaupa for always believing in me.”
“This also goes to PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka, Southern director Gwaibo Mairi, coaches Bugsy Bagelo Solien, trainers Vagi Vali, Sammy Rice Jackson, national women’s coach Dennis Miall, PNGRFL national selectors and Port Moresby Rugby League board headed by Dr James Naipao who have contributed one way or the other for me to be selected and recognized.”
She also thanked all the PNG Orchids players and her local club Lalokau FM Hawks, and major sponsor Oil Search Ltd for their support.
By JACK AMI