By Erick Elefante 4/2/14
Ever since their first appearance in the Cabramatta International 9s tournament on the 4th February 2012, the Philippines National Rugby League (PNRL) keeps on making Rugby League history.
In their 3rd appearance at Saturday’s 1st of February Cabramatta International 9s, the PNRL entered four teams in the tournament:
– Pool G: Philippine Airlines (PAL) Philippine Tamaraws National Side
– Pool F: PAL Philippine Tamaraws National Development Blue
– Pool H: PAL Philippines National Development Red
– Pool E: PAL Philippine Tamaraws U/20’s
The PNRL has gone from 15 players in 2012 to 60 players at Saturday’s tournament. Who would have guessed that so many Rugby League players from Asian backgrounds of Filipino-heritage could be playing “The Greatest Game of All” – Rugby League!
These Filipino-heritage League players have not just come from one place – they have come from all over Australia and overseas! Players travelled all the way from Auckland, New Zealand, Darwin in the Northern Territory, Toowoomba, Townsville, Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Queensland. Sydney, Newcastle and the Central coast in NSW as well as from our national capital in Canberra!
With these large numbers of players, came many more family and friends, as well as community leaders like Dennis Laxamana of the Filipino Australian Movement for Empowerment, who PNRL Vice President and Head Coach Clayton Watene thank for their support.
Also in attendance at this historic tournament were our sponsors with Mr. Arnul Pan representing our national carrier Philippine Airlines and Atoy Sayas of Zignal Travels who announced to the teams on the day his renewal of sponsorship over the next 2 years, which was greeted with applause and cheers from all!
Support from the Philippines Government was also much appreciated with Consul Marford Angeles, Mr. Jose Morales – Consulate’s Administrative Officer and Mr. Russell Villegas, the Consulate’s Protocol Officer in attendance. With Consul Marford who has been in attendance to all our Cabramatta International 9s tournaments since 2012 inspiring the players with his speech on their proud Filipino-heritage.
PNRL Vice President and Head Coach Clayton Watene, was proud of the work the coaches, managers and support staff put in to produce a successful PNRL campaign at this tournament. With two Filipino-heritage teams topping their pools, winning all their games, with our number one team the Philippine Airlines Philippine Tamaraws National Side winning pool G and the PAL Philippines National Development Red winning Pool H showing a lot of skill, grit and determination in doing so!
The un-fancied PAL Philippines National Development Red showed a lot of character in their second game to come from behind on each occasion to beat the Latin Heat side. At no point when they were behind on the score board did these players lose hope but instead increased their determination!
This same fighting spirit was also evident in the Philippines, youngest and least experienced side, the PAL Philippine Tamaraws U/20’s team. Who lost all their games in their pool rounds, but kept the short and proud history of Philippines Rugby League intact against the Thailand Stars by beating them in the Bowl Quarter Final. The Thailand Stars to date have not beaten the Philippines in the full or short version of the game from our full strength PAL Tamaraws National side to our Development and U20 teams!
The embodiment of the short and successful history of the PNRL to date was the performance of our main team, the Philippine Airlines Philippine Tamaraws National Side. The PNRL is only two years old and dominated and defeated Niue and Greece who have had a decade long head start with establishing and playing their heritage sides in Australia. This is a statement that Asian players of Filipino-heritage have a lot to contribute to “The Greatest Game of All”, just like the European, Middle Eastern and Pacific community groups who have earlier adopted Rugby League!
The heart stopping 16 – 12, Golden – point extra time semi-final win by the Philippine Airlines Philippine Tamaraws National Side against the Australian Indigenous team is further indication of the Rugby League experience and skill that exist amongst players of Asian heritage. As with their 2012 inaugural appearance and Bowl Trophy win on Golden – point extra time. The Philippine Tamaraws National Side showed composure and a personal belief that allowed them to win against a more experienced side who have won this 7 years old tournament twice, at a stressful and critical point of the game!
Alas, unlike a repeat of their fairytale 2012 inaugural Bowl Trophy victory. At the final against local Ron Massey Cup club side the Auburn Warriors the Philippine Airlines Philippine Tamaraws National Side went down fighting three tries to two, 14 – 8 the fairytale of a win in their first appearance in the Cup trophy final just eluding them.
The Philippine Tamaraws National Side walk away from the competition coming second amongst 30 International and Ron Massey Club teams that played the tournament on Saturday. In their third appearance at the Cabramatta International 9s they have become the first Asian-heritage side to reach the Cup Final and will be better for it in future competitions to come!
The 2014 edition of the Cabramatta International 9s have shown that players of Filipino-heritage from all corners of Australia and New Zealand that Rugby League players of Asian background have the ability, passion and skill to play “The Greatest Game of All”!
This Philippines success indicates the potential of the sport in the untapped economic power houses of the Asian region, which are on the door steps of Australia and New Zealand! A potential that Rugby League leaders and power brokers should support and use to make inroads into Asia!
RESULTS of all Games of all 4 PNRL teams:
Philippine Airlines Philippine Tamaraws National Side
Canada, Niue Development & Greece
Gm 8: – Philippines (1) 16 def. Canada 8
Gm 21: – Philippines (1) 30 def. Niue Development 4
Gm 32: – Philippines (1) 24 def. Greece 6
Cup Qtr Final Gm 57: – Philippines (1) 18 def. Philippines (3) 4
Cup Semi Final Gm 65: – Philippines (1) 16 def. Australian Indigenous 12 in GOLDEN POINT
Cup Final FT: Auburn Warriors 14 def. Philippines 8
PAL Philippine Tamaraws National Development Blue
Niue, Malta &Thailand
Gm 14: – Philippines (2) 4 drew with Malta 4
Gm 24: – Niue 22 def. Philippines (2) 4
Gm 42: – Philippines (2) 12 def. Thailand 8
Trophy Qtr Final Gm 52: – Cook Islands 22 def. Philippines (2) 10
PAL Philippines National Development Red
Portugal , Latin Heat & Japan
Gm 6: – Philippines (3) 10 def. Japan 0
Gm 15: – Philippines (3) 12 def. Latin Heat 10
Gm 27: – Philippines (3) 18 def. Portugal 10
Cup Qtr Final Gm 57: – Philippines (1) 18 def. Philippines (3) 4
PAL Philippine Tamaraws U/20’s
Australian Indigenous, Marist Saints (NZ), Cook Islands
Gm 9: – Marist Saints (NZ) 14 def. Philippines (4) 4
Gm 20: – Cook Islands 38 def. Philippines (4) 0
Gm 37: – Australian Indigenous 38 def. Philippines (4) 0
Bowl Qtr Final Gm 48: – Philippines (4) 16 def. Thailand 14
Bowl Semi Final Gm 58: – Hills District Bulls 32 def. Philippines (4) 4