Members of ADF Rugby League joined the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII and junior teams as part of their tour to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
CAPTION: Members of the woman’s ADF Rugby League team form a huddle with the PNGDF Rugby League team after a friendly exhibition match at the Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, PNG. Story by Squadron Leader Amanda Scott. Photos by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.
It was the first time ADF Rugby League has partnered with the iconic men’s and women’s XIII teams, as well as the Junior Kumuls, Orchids and Australian schoolboys and schoolgirls sides.
The tour started with the ADF open women’s team taking to the field against representatives of Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) at Santos National Stadium before the Australian PM’s XIII women’s match, in front of a roaring crowd.
PNG was home to Able Seaman Velma Tsang before her family relocated to Australian when she was 10.
“I had an adrenaline rush, and when the national anthems were played I had a couple of tears, as I felt connected to both countries and it was my first time wearing the green-and-gold jersey,” Able Seaman Tsang said.
CAPTION: Leading Aircraftwoman Lowana McDougall runs the ball during the match against the PNGDF women’s team.
The ADF open men’s rugby league team backed up the women’s match against representatives from the PNGDF men’s team.
Proud of his PNG heritage, Private Shaun Wickham said the game was tough.
“It was a very hard game, they are fierce and passionate, but at the end of the day we come together, swap jerseys and its rugby league that wins,” Private Wickham said.
Both PNGDF teams proved too strong for the ADF contingent with the PNGDF women’s team triumphing over the ADF women’s team 10-0 and the ADF men’s team succumbing to the PNGDF men’s team 28-22.
The visiting teams flew to Port Moresby on a RAAF KC-30A and were met with a passionate welcome from fans hoping to get a glimpse of the players.
Leading Aircraftwoman Lowana McDougall said the passion PNG has for its rugby league could be felt as soon as the contingent touched down in Port Moresby.
“PNG just loves the game, it’s part of their community, it’s part of their identify,” Leading Aircraftwoman McDougall.
The tour helped build momentum for the Pacific Games in November, allowing players to get a bit of match fitness in the lead-up to the important event.
CAPTION: Private Shaun Wickham runs the ball during a Rugby League match against the PNGDF men’s team.