Where to start… the annual Prime Ministers XIII match between the Kumuls and Kangaroos went off on Sunday. I was lucky that there was a spare ticket to our corporate box at the ground, and got 2 tickets in the main grandstand for Jono and Jamin. Our corporate box is very small, and the air-con unit was playing up – so not sure who got the better deal… She was sure hot in the glass box!
I thought I would paint a picture first about getting there. The rugby league fields are in Bisini, and if you don’t have a vehicle pass, then it is a loooong wait outside trying to get in. Jono rang me seeing if we had a vehicle pass as they were camped out with no way of getting in the gates – the official crowd number according to the paper was 10,000 – but the ground apparently holds 20,000 and there was at least that and maybe 10,000 more…. Lots of people couldn’t even get into the ground… So we picked up Jono and Jamin and they got the easy ride through the gates with us The crowd outside the gates was amazing, and very intimidating for a first timer…
On entry to the ground, in order to get through to the corporate box area, you go through a security check – which is a gated security area. You then go up some stairs into a bar area, then up another set of stairs to the box’s which are locked from the inside. A couple of knocks on the door and you are let in and the door is then locked behind you. The corporate box itself has a couple of eskies/chilly bins/coolers on the floor, and 4 plastic chairs. The air-con unit (which was just fixed) is spluttering air into the room – 10 minutes later, and it stops working. There is no other ventilation… There is enough room for 10 people in the box, the one next door has about 20 in it. There is glass partitioning between the boxes and the front is glass – legs are dangling from the roof above. A game between two female teams is in action, and the hits are harder than David Tua vs Shane Cameron.
The air-con starts, albeit briefly, everyone is diving into a cool SP Export or glass of wine – there are volunteers going into the chilly bins – to get some cool ice no doubt. A second game starts, the crowd is filling in, on the roof next door there is at least 50 people, the signage around the ground signals a perfect viewing platform, and everyone is starting to climb them. The scoreboard with it’s hand painted AUS sign is collecting people – I hope it doesn’t fall! The commentator announces to the crowd that the game currently being played is actually the 2nd half – the first half was played earlier on. It’s damn hot.
The teams finally come out to view the crowd and start warm ups – they should just come up to our box The Aussies all have camera’s – bloody funny. Everyone is taking pictures and they are taking everyone else’s. The Kumul’s are looking very disciplined – going through their routines. The Prime Minister – Peter O’Neill is sitting in the box to our left with some other MP’s. He seems to be enjoying himself. We take photo’s
There are calls for “anyone wanna chair?” from the front row of the box, whilst outside, the commentators are asking the crowd that are on the roof of the stands to get off. The people on the top of the stands smile and wave – it’s very funny.
The game starts with the PM kicking off – he does a good job, and the crowd love it. Then the game proper starts…. I fire in a quick one-liner “You know, I’ve never been to a game where Australia have won.” the timing is impeccable, and the Aussies in the box get a little more heated. The Papua New Guinean’s in the box all spot me a high-5… timing
The game really kicks into gear, and the Kumuls are playing out of their skins, all the territory but a few lapse moments and the Kangaroos have scored a couple of soft tries. One of the tries looked like an offside, but was given anyway. The Kumuls are hitting the aussies hard though and the aussies playing into the wind are struggling to clear their 40. The Kumuls get a try in and the crowd goes berserk. A 40/20 to the Kumuls and the stadium roof next door is bending and warping with the people on it jumping up and down. The first half ends, and although the Kangaroo’s are in front, it’s clear the heat has taken it’s toll – they are pulling off jumpers and sucking in the big ones. At the other end of the park, the Kumuls are in a huddle – they know that they are about to hit the wall of wind that is racing through the ground, but they look really focused. The air-con splutters out a small amount of air, the water hose from it and 5 other units is dripping water onto some people in the stand below us – they don’t care.
The players as they come out on the field after halftime already have hands on hips – and then the Kumuls attack. It’s like men vs boys out there – the carnage in the tackle is a sight to behold, the hits are now Tyson’esk and the Kumuls are making just as much metres into the wind as they were with it. Suddenly – there is a breakout, and the Kumuls score – the place goes INSANE, everyone is jumping around. The roof above the seats furthest away from us suddenly gives way, the Toyota sign attached to the front of it gives way and lands on people below. We don’t know if anyone is hurt – the crowd ran like hell to get out of the way, but run straight back in to watch the conversion attempt – it goes over, and the crowd erupt again. Chants of KUMUL KUMUL KUMUL go around the ground, even the aussies in our box are cheering. We’ve forgotten how hot it is in the box, all eyes are on the crowd and the Kumuls playing their hearts out.
With 5/10 minutes to go, the Kumuls break out – it’s 14 to 18 and they are away. A barging run and they score in the right hand corner, the crowd is at fever pitch – the score is 18 all – amazing. A large light tower with about 40 people on it suddenly gives way and collapses under the heaving mass of people jumping up and down on it – it folds itself over the stand roof, and it seems like everyone raced to safety. The roof next door looks like it might be next. Some junior school boy’s from Aussie that were sitting on the edge of the field are escorted out of the ground. You can sense that if the Kumuls win – we will need to stay locked up in the box for a few hours whilst the place goes into freefall party mode. There is beer sprayed everywhere, including the box next door to us, all the glass is now smeared in beer – unreal.
There’s 1 minutes to go, a Scott Prince cross field kick goes up into the in goal, it looks like an Australian has knocked it on, Uate puts a hand on it – the ref awards the try. I am in disbelief. The crowd is muted. The conversion goes over. Video Ref – Where the bloody hell are ya!
The final whistle blows, the Australians look like they just got the best get out of jail free card on offer – the Kumuls are gutted but still jumping with joy. They took it to the big guns and almost pulled off a stunning upset.
As the teams finish on the field, the crowd is looking for some way to get out there to greet their hero’s. I watched one chap scale a barbed wire fence, jump back down when the police arrived, then 5 minutes later climb back up and over – just to touch the arm of a Kangaroo player. The smile on his face was something to behold. Watched @FeletiMateo having a good time – go hard Warriors! Nice to see the boys spend time with the crowd
An overzealous guard started escorting kids off the ground, another one – picks up a chair and tries to scare some kids, he then gets a stick – and the crowd scatters.
We take some photos of the boys posing beside the PM, they looked like they were together – but there was glass between us. He doesn’t notice
The Prime Minister leaves, he doesn’t look impressed at the crowd.
The crowd stays mainly off the field. The people in the tree’s, on the roofs, on top of the signs – start to depart. The bar area beneath us is getting rowdy. The Kumuls finally come off the field – with smiles so wide.
I end up going down onto the pitch, groups of police and army are down there. Jono and Jamin come down too and we take photo’s. I wander over to where the roof has come down and the light tower collapsed, there is no signs of blood – although that is hard to see with the amount of buai (betelnut) spit on the ground. I think that they got away with it… I look back across the ground at the stand that lost it’s roof 2 years previous. It’s a hulk of rusting beams – during the game, there were actually people sitting there. Obviously no one learns a lesson – but really, they came to see their hero’s, so any advantage point is better than none.
The crowd drifts off, and we head home. Jamin and Jono leave in Jamin’s car, and on the way home see a carjacking attempt gone wrong. The PNG owner of the car had been jacked, but the police had caught the thieves – shooting the driver through the head. It’s tough justice here in PNG, maybe those carjackers will learn a lesson. It makes me sad – such a beautiful place, such a beautiful place – but such a waste of a life.
I have attached pictures – they speak volumes