The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 28, 2009) – As the dust settles on the State of Origin II series clash last Wednesday evening, one is reminded of an obscure poem by a certain Ernest Lawrence Thayer in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888 about a baseball game. It is titled: "Casey at the bat".

We paraphrase here the last stanza for last week’s match:

"Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

"The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

"And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;

"But there is no joy in all of New South Wales & half of PNG – the mighty Blues have struck out."

Or shall we say: the mighty Maroons have struck again!

That was the state of utter despondency and wretchedness that descended upon followers of the New South Wales team.

The clashes between diehard fans from both teams are stuff of legend and this game was no exception.

The son of Dei MP, Puri Ruing, and two others fell victim to a vicious attack in Port Moresby right after the match and it is believed the attack was related to the match.

Some serious damage has been done in Port Moresby and in other parts of the country on account of our fixation with this annual rugby league series in a distant land.

The question we ask is: Why are Papua New Guineans crazy about the State of Origin series to the extent where they are willing to kill or bet Toyota Landcruisers or even wives over a game which players and executives do not give two hoots about PNG? They do not even bother to pronounce the name of our country correctly.

Mal Meninga, the coach of the Maroons, whilst yet a player, described our Kumul players as "smelling like pigs" in his book.

So long as we forget such insults and go on hero worshipping players and series in Australia, development of PNG’s rugby league code will be in limbo.

We do it at the emotional and financial expense of our own national team. There is even money that our support might be split were our own Kumuls to play a Blues or Maroons side. Mercifully such an event is a long time coming.

Sporting codes are sustained by popular following. So long as Papua New Guineans follow the NRL in Australia, we put development of PNG rugby league in peril.

This is especially so now the Prime Minister has put down K500,000 for PNG to enter a team into the NRL.

That is a good start but it is going to take much more than political standards and money to get a PNG team into NRL.

The NRL is going to want to know about a lot of things right from our junior development programmes at the school boys rugby league level.

It is going to want to know what state of facilities from the state of stadiums to coaches and buses and hotel and motel rooms.

It is going to want to know what level of corporate sponsorship PNGRFL attracts.

Most importantly, it is going to want to know what kind of appeal a PNG team will have, not only in PNG but also in Australia. Will a PNG team appeal on prime time Australian TV?

It would be wise counsel for PNGRFL and those who are charged with preparing the ground work for the future PNG NRL team to sit down and examine how other teams such as the Auckland Warriors entered the NRL.

What were the checks?

What was the deciding factor for the Warriors to gain admittance to rugby league’s top competition?

These and a lot more other questions need to be asked.

Corruption, politics, and misdemeanors or indiscretions of any kind on the part of players and officials will never be tolerated.

If somebody of the stature of Mathew Johns of Cronulla Sharks can be rapped on the knuckles and banned from the game in Australia for a sexual tryst many years ago, you can be sure the checks on each and every PNG player and official will be stringent.

It seems that again we are attacking a problem from the tail end first. Instead of getting our rugby league house in order and progress towards that distant goal of getting a team into the NRL, we are opting to scrap a team together from nothing to throw into the NRL.

However noble our intentions, it just does not happen this way in the real world – such as at the NRL.

The National:

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