Contributed by: Rod Shaw
Papua New Guinea's junior pathway program continues to rush ahead, with the Under 14 Binatangs having wins in warm-up matches against a New South Wales region and Queensland development side, followed by a comfortable win in the Queensland Under 14 State Championships, and pushing one of the top regions in their other game so far.
Further down the pathway are another group now playing for Coolangatta, and some Papuans have even lined up for the Brisbane Lions Reserves side in the southeast Queensland league. These young men are the real deal and we review their progress below. The AFL PNG Under 14 Binatangs continued their successful Australian tour with a strong win over the Queensland Colts in their second round match of the Queensland State Championships at Cararra on Tuesday 2nd July. Papua New Guinea goalkickers were Beno 4, Macca 2, Bai 2, Iso 1, Kipa 1, Gotuno 1, Leroy 1.
Final scores were PNG Binatangs 12.4 (76) def Qld Colts 5.3 (33)
This was the second match for the Binatangs in the Queensland State Under 14 Championships.
In the first round they met a highly favoured Bushrangers outfit from SE Brisbane. The Binatangs took the game right up to their bigger opponents having most of the play in the first and second quarters.
Unfortunately the Binatangs could not convert their opportunities and although they were just 5 points behind at the final change, the Bushrangers steadied with a couple of marks in the last term to take the match.
The PNG boys had been very competitive with strong run and pressure and their courage in tackling and taking on their bigger opponents was magnificent, but bad kicking for goal let them down. Lavu, Gotuno and Bai each kicked a goal for Papua New Guinea.
Final scores were PNG 3.8 (28) defeated by Bushrangers 7.10 (52).
The Binatangs started their tour with the Development Challenge at Coolangatta’s ground on Saturday 28 June 2008. This tournament was intended to give the newer teams to the State titles the chance to test their match plans and get players ready for the tournament ahead.
PNG played a NSW Northern Rivers representative team in their first match and accounted for the bigger NSW boys relatively easily. Under 14 Captain Brendan Beno, an Under 14 veteran on his fourth tour of Australia, helped the newer players settle into the standard and several new stars were soon showing their skills and courage.
The Binatangs then took on the Queensland Colts from Brisbane and again their superior leg speed, strong pressure and tackling caught the bigger Brisbane boys unaware. PNG won both games by good margins considering the shortened length of the games with just two 15 minute halves in the development format.
The local Coolangatta crowd got right behind the smaller but skilful and super quick Binatangs. Coolangatta has become home base for AFL PNG with players on scholarship there over the past 4 years. Currently there are 9 representing the club at senior level, and the PNG boys with their natural flair have become a local crowd favourite.
Yori Kura was dynamic with his run and tackling, Theo Gavuri was impassable at Centre Half Back, Sanga Bai was elusive and showed great skills and Junior Macca jumped incredibly high in the Ruck, but it was a sensational one handed grab, reminiscent of that famous photo of Roy Cazaly, taken by captain Brendan Beno that set the crowd alight.
The Development Challenge was great preparation for the Binatangs at their home base at Coolangatta. It set them up for their first match of the State Championships against the Bushrangers.
Following the Bushrangers match on Monday all the AFL Queensland Development Staff commented on the huge improvements in the Binatang players and although only 4 had returned from 2007 all seemed to better understand the game plan which required them to play to their strengths, avoid aerial contests and to use their pace and agility to keep running.
With the new found belief that they could match it with the bigger Australian kids the PNG boys entered the Colts game with a great deal of confidence. They had already beaten these boys in the Development Challenge, they had been highly competitive against the Bushrangers and now they were determined to post their first win for their country.
The team lined up with a settled defence led by Gideon Simon at Full Back from the Highlands and Theo Gavuri at Centre Half Back. Both boys lacked height against very tall opponents but showed composure and strength to at least bring the ball to ground so flankers like Arthur Iso, Noel Cadzie Larry, Ezekila Liman, Nane Rai and Martin Raki could run the ball out of defence.
Up forward Junior Luba and Noel Maguna led the way, contesting well, and showed real agility to turn quickly when the ball got free. The two taller forwards were well supported by Brendan Gotuno, Tonny Leroy, Arthur Iso and Joe Kipa who all got goals from being prepared to run to the right spot and kick truly.
But it was the dominant on-ballers who got PNG going from the centre clearances and stoppages. Ruckman Junior Macca was sensational jumping over much taller opponents to win the ball and then Yori Kura, Sanga Bai, Nathan Malbak, Nolan Lavu, Tonnie Ronnie, Jacob Kanga and Eric Kua all worked together to take the ball forward many more times than the Colts.
Such was the interest in the Binatangs boys that Brisbane Lions recruiting staff were there discussing with AFL PNG officials how they could provide more support. It could be that more PNG boys school in Australia while progressing their footy in the future.
At present AFL PNG has 18 players on scholarships supported by AFLQ and several local clubs. The players are aged between 15 and 22 and play senior football and high level junior football across SE Queensland. Several of the PNG players have played for the Brisbane Lions Reserves and others are playing in the Queensland State Representative matches at Under 18 and Under 16 level.
All the Australian Scholarship boys are eligible for selection in the Telikom PNG Mosquitoes for the third Australian Football International Cup which commences in less than 8 weeks.
It is likely that it will not be long until we see the first AFL PNG product make his debut at the elite AFL level. All of us in international footy should look forward to that day, but in the meantime the on-going success of the Binatangs, even as they step up in standard, is very rewarding for all those involved with AFL PNG programs.
Further matches for the U14 Binatangs are on Friday 4 July and Saturday 5 July. The boys return home on Airlines PNG, Monday lunchtime 6 July 2008.
World Footy News