How the PNG Hunters united a politically divided nation

Hunters
Picture by Alexander Rheeney

Coming off the back of an election marred by the deaths of two policemen, several supporters and the destruction of millions of kina worth of property, many Papua New Guineans expressed that they felt misrepresented by their leaders.

Days before, the PNG hunters ran on to the field to take on the Sunshine Coast Falcons, there was news again on the media of the sale of petroleum shares that, according to analysts, had cost the PNG government huge losses.

The dust kicked up by turbulent economic and political time was one aspect of life that many wished would at least settle quickly. While that was ongoing,   Papua New Guineans found clarity in one thing – the PNG Hunter’s prospects of winning the Intrust Super Cup Grand final against the Falcons.

The national sport, rugby league has long been both a uniting and dividing force. ‘The fanaticism for rugby league is rivaled only by that of PNG politics,’ a statement coined by an Australian journalist, still rings true an every sense. With successive losses, over 40 years, many had become skeptical of any success on the international stage.

But this time, the possibility of a win was real.

The hype was building up. Even the NCD Governor, Powes Parkop, was willing to spend K75,000 on subsidizing air travel for those going to Australia for the game.

I was among the many skeptics. Even with the successful run of the PNG Hunters over the last four years, through the hard work of coach Michael Marum, the players and the sponsors, there was still doubt.

By the 75th minute, it was down to PNG’s tenacity and passion. Could the psychologically defeating lead by the Falcons, dampen the spirits of the Hunters?

Everyone watched as the   precious minutes ticked by. The energy wasn’t depleted…Or at least it didn’t show.

The Hunter’s defense was tight.

Then the 78th minute came.   Nobody expected any magic until Ase Boas kicked the ball.

Wapenamanda, Enga province, where Willie Minoga’s   family was watching exploded with celebration as the Freight Train crashed through and landed on the ball.

In Port Moresby, Lae, Mt. Hagen and every major center with television overage, the celebrations were similar. Ethnic, political and economic divisions were all thrown to the ground and stomped on as people celebrated the victory.  All that didn’t matter any more as people came together because of rugby league.

Ase Boas then took over, kicking the ball in between the posts to score the winning conversion.   The Hunters had taken the Intrust Super Cup and a country had been united.

It was all that mattered.

 

 

 

 

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Gabriel Minoga (Willie’s Dad) says thanks to those who made it happen for the Hunters

minogaI went to watch the game at Mark Reto place, the place already full so sat on the floor. Augustin Yama saw me and offered me his seat.
After all the lead up processions the game started and within five minutes two tries were
Scored.
I felt restless and uncomfortable so I quietly stood up and walked out of the place thinking that the Falcons would win by a runaway score.
The game sea-sawed and it was half time and for the next 35 minutes there were no points from either side.
Stanley Ipia said that Falcons would not win and that the Hunters would still win in the end. Stanley’s  comments encouraged me so I went to a different house to watch the second half. Stanley Ipia is not a player but a very strong  follower. I was wondering why he said that.
The second half is history. The boys played very strongly and if anything, it was their defensive effort that won them the game. The “icing on the cake”  was  delivered by PNG’s  now golden boy in Rugby League Willie Minoga.
I saw Ase Boas on the left hand side of the field with the ball but din’t know where Willie
came from to score that winning try. There were at least three Falcons players shepherding  in that ball.
Like I’ve always said, Rugby League is a team sport and and so many people are involved in the preparation and planning before you can achieve a day like this, today’s result is a result of time and dedication in the sport.
On behalf of Willie Minoga’s  family like to thank some of them.  Thank you to:
● coach and officials of the Hunters team
● PNG Rugby for their foresight
● Sports Minister Justin Tatchenko
● Chairman Sandis Tsaka
● Stanley Tepend
● The Government of PNG
● SNAX Tigers club of Lae
● Action Governor Ipatas
● 17 Hunters Players
● Supporters
● Waimin Sambaiyoko
● all the rest who have contributed one way or the other. 

This is the people day when the sport brings people’s of all languages together as one people and nation and thank you to rugby League.  Let’s celebrate and enjoy when the Cup is brought home to its rightful place Papua New Guinea by the players and rest of the Team.

Congratulations PNG Hunters for this milestone, this achievement!