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Sunday, October 21 2018 @ 11:45 am ACDT

Binatangs dominate Queensland Country Championships

Oceania

The Papua New Guinea under 16s have again won the U16s Queensland Country Championships, defeating Cairns comfortably in the grand final. PNG are the one country consistently taking on and defeating Aussie sides, thanks both to the great grassroots development of the game in the nation, and to the strong support from AFL Queensland. Four of the boys have been selected to represent the Country Kookaburras in the Queensland U16 Championships, though from the scorelines it would seem plenty of other lads deserved a spot.

The PNG players were described as small but fast, and they cut a swathe through the opposition, winning their preliminary games demonstrably.

Round 1 - PNG 8.11 (59) d Carpriconia 0.1 (1)
Round 2 - PNG 10.5 (65) d Bundaberg/Wide Bay 1.1 (7)
Round 3 - PNG 16.6 (102) d Cape York 0.0 (0)

The final saw the Binatangs take on the home side Cairns in what was expected to be a tight battle at Cazaly's Stadium. It proved that way in the first half, and a close finish was on the cards, given that PNG won in 2005 by 7 points and Cairns by a similar margin in 2004. But the visitors over-ran the locals to win by 35 points.

Grand Final - PNG 9.2 (56) d Cairns 3.3 (21)

It would be wrong to definitively declare major improvement from PNG based on a handful of results, but the trend is very encouraging. Footy in Queensland is certainly growing fast, so to go from narrow losers to comfortable winners in 3 seasons is a strong sign they are on the right path.

Four of the young guns were selected to stay on to train for the Kookaburras squad which will represent Queensland Country in their state championships. With Cairns having 8 players it may well be that other factors came into play, such as rewarding locals and not overburdening PNG's system - having players stay on must interfere with their schooling and no doubt is carefully managed by AFLPNG. The players kept on were Ogla Pena, Johnson Meli, Stanis Susuve and Elave Sapea. Susuve is studying on an AFLPNG scholarship at De La Salle in Bomana near Port Moresby, following on from Peter Milaura, the first recipient of the school assistance program.

As stated in previous stories, the next step for PNG is to get junior players selected into Queensland's state U16s and U18s sides, from where plenty of AFL draftees are now being taken. To reach that goal they need to impress up against some of Australia's best young talent emerging from the booming Australian Football nursery of Southeast Queensland. If PNG's improvement continues, it does raise the question as to whether they might field their own teams in the Queensland state championships, rather than qualify players through the Country system.

Thanks to Henry Morabang's articles in The National and articles in the Post Courier. See for example AFL U16 side win - Back to back Queensland Country Cup for PNG’s Binatangs.

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