Contributed by: Brett Northey
Despite a tight budget preventing Papua New Guinea from sending a complete team to the Under 14 Queensland Country Championships and a gruelling travel schedule, the Binatangs still managed to produce four players to be selected for the Country Kookaburras squad to play in Queensland's state championships.
In a pleasing move AFLQ accomodated PNG's decision not to send a full team down, instead allowing 7 players to attend, each playing for a different regional Queensland side. No doubt this was challenging for the young lads, travelling to another country (probably for the first time), then being put in a new team with a bunch of Aussie kids. Just as difficult would have been the 40 hour bus journey from Cairns to Mackay to Bundaberg where the tournament was held.
The talented seven and their allocated teams were:
Brendan Beno - Bundaberg-Wide Bay
Garry Kele - Darling Downs
Junior Caleb Kapa - Townsville
Peter Yama Labi - Mackay
Jolam Tonga - Crusaders
Robert Daniel - Capricornia
Kenneth Buka - Cairns
Despite the challenges AFL PNG staff on the tour, Willie Yogomin and Doug Hale, reported that they received very encouraging comments from parents and the teams' coaching staff after all their games. Junior Caleb Kapa won the tournament Best Player Trophy, and was selected in the Country Kookaburras squad along with countrymen Brendan Beno, Garry Kele and Peter Labi.
The lucky four then headed to Brisbane where they played for Redcliffe in preparation for the state titles. Any success at junior level in Queensland is a great indication for the future, with the state booming in footy. Numerous Queensland players are now being drafted into the AFL each year and at the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships (formerly held as the Under 17 Teal Cup prior to 1996) the Queensland Scorpions won Division Two undefeated. That included a 116 point thrashing of NSW/ACT, indicating the gulf the latter has to bridge. It wouldn't surprise to see the Scorpions soon elevated to Division One to take on Victoria Metro, Vic Country, South Australia and Western Australia.
World Footy News