PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Sept. 17, 2008) - Sport is something that grabs people’s attention in a big way.

We at the Post-Courier realize this because we see your reactions to exciting or dramatic news about teams or individuals in sport.

The latest such things to grab your attention are the fine effort of disabled athlete Francis Kompaon at the Paralympics in Beijing, the startling improvement of junior tennis player Abigail Tere-Apisai and, last but not least, the fever of the rugby league clash between Australia and PNG next week! And of course our Mosquitoes winning the International rules cup.

These come so soon after the exciting performance of golden fish Ryan Pini to make a final of the swimming at the Beijing Olympics that sports fans are loving it.

Our national and provincial leaders must take note of those great efforts and the way our people react to them. Bluntly, we want to succeed on the world stage!

Like the Aussies, the Americans and the Chinese, we want to be proud of what our sports stars can do against the best of the world.

Francis Kompaon has done that, just missing gold by a hundredth of a second against an Australia. He will come home with our first silver at that level.

What will he come home to? A brief flash of praise and handshakes? We say again, will the Prime Minister extend his promise of big bucks to an Olympics medal winner to the Paralympics silver medalist?

At the same time, will our leaders get serious about supporting sport and give us a well-financed, long-term plan to strike for world-stage success. We need it on two levels: a grassroots development to bring the raw talents from the villages up to regional and national championships, and then an elite development program boosted beyond the current one.

The elite program is still far too dependent on the generosity of individuals and companies, sponsorships and dinner dances at the last minute.

For athletes and coaches to get genuine and plan long-term, they need to know that their Government is right behind them with a plan of action.

This is not to say we plunder hospital and school funds to do it, far from it.

But it should not be hard for sincere leaders to apportion some of that Budget surplus into financing an ongoing sports development fund that will bring us world class Papua New Guineans and help to bring our talented people up to the NRL and AFL level.

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