Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The Papua New Guinea U16 Binatangs arrived in Cairns for two footy matches this weekend en route to their appointment this week in Townsville for the South Pacific Cup, and if the show they put on today is any indication, the New Zealand and Oceania teams will be in for a torrid time.
Their visit to Cairns started on Saturday 6th April with a scratch match against the North Cairns Tigers U18 team. Binatangs coach, Murray Bird, admitted “We didn’t really keep score…but I’m told it was about 17 goals to 3.” The Tigers are no mugs, but they got a taste of what this PNG side has to offer.
With whatever cobwebs the players might have bought with them from home well and truly blown away, the team moved further south the following day to Gordonvale, home of the Pyramid Power Junior Football Club.
The Pyramid crew had arranged this day with the assistance of Ben Drew, AFL Development Officer - Pacific in Melbourne and the local body AFL Cairns.
The Sunday picnic atmosphere at Power Park, under the watchful and approving gaze of nearby Walsh’s Pyramid (a 922 metre mountain which dominates the vistas of Gordonvale) welcomed the Binatang team. After a Welcome to Country address from local tribal elder of the Malanbarra Yidinji people, Saunders Ambrum, and a musical welcome on the didgeridoo from Jimmy Creek, the remaining welcomes were exchanged and the game commenced.
From the opening minutes the smallish but appreciative crowd were entertained by a disciplined, talented, courageous and almost telepathic PNG team. By the end of the match the Binatangs had prevailed by a whopping 116 points – final score: PNG 19 8 122 d Pyramid Power 1 0 6. But this day was about welcoming a guest and also exposing the young local players to an elite level of footy which they may not otherwise get unless selected themselves at representative level.
The day also featured an International Day where the Gordonvale crowd were invited the run out on to the field in footy jumpers donated by clubs across the world and add an even greater international flavour to the day. Kids and adults alike ran around in jumpers donated by clubs from Europe, Australia, Asia and North America. The Footys4all Foundation in Melbourne also donated a range of awards for the players.
This game presented another big opportunity for Cairns to sell itself as a logical hub for Australian Rules football throughout the Oceania region. Even the PNG contingent were keen as mustard to look at returning again in subsequent years and hoping to make this an annual event if at all possible.
From Gordonvale, the PNG Binatangs hopped back on the team bus and travelled south down the Bruce Highway to Townsville to get a good night’s sleep and prepare for their first game tomorrow in the South Pacific Cup. After two days of honing their already impressive skills in Cairns, the PNG lads should be ready to produce that magic again…and again…against their New Zealand and Oceania opponents.
Based solely on what was on display in Gordonvale today, these Binatangs, described by some as the best ever U16 team to leave their home shores, might well claim the title of the best U16 side throughout the entire Oceania region.
Cairns certainly won’t argue with that.
World Footy News