PAPUA New Guinea has won the first ever Commonwealth Rugby League Championship Nines title sweeping all before them to signal some exciting times ahead for the future of the game here.
The team went through the two-day tournament in Glasgow undefeated clinching the gold medal with a 22-8 win over Australia in the grand final on Saturday.
PNG dominated Australia from the first whistle racking up three tries in the opening half before the opposition got their hands on the football.
PNG led from the first minute through Warren Glare and added two more tries before the break through Anderson Benford and Gahuna Silas.
Sydney Roosters’ Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck showed power and pace to pull one back for Austalia but at 16-4 down they had too much to do against an outstanding PNG.
Ryan King (Wests, Illawarra) buried over from close range, but in a fabulous finish the diminutive Silas broke away, stepped out of three tackles and scrambled over the line to win gold for PNG.
PNG had overcome Wales in a ferocious semi-final, winning 12-6, while Australia saw off the tournament’s surprise package Canada, 20- 0.
PNG Hunters player Stanton Albert was named the player of the championships in a tournament where PNG also beat South Africa, England and Canada in the pool games.
PNG Rugby Football League chairman Sandis Tsaka and CEO Brad Tassell received the news with great elation.
“I am proud chairman,” Tsaka said.
“The PNGRFL and the people of Papua New Guinea congratulate the team for an outstanding performance.
“The result is unprecedented for a PNG team to go through a tournament undefeated and win it as well.”
Tsaka said the Rugby League 9s was an exhibition sport but PNG has the honour of being referred to as the Commonwealth champions until the next games in 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia where it could be a medal sport.
“It is a new chapter for rugby league (in PNG) and we will build on these young men for the future with our immediate focus on the Pacific Games in Port Moresby next year where we aim to win the gold medal.”
Steering clear of dwelling too much on the past Tsaka said that “it is a new chapter for rugby league in PNG and we will build on such performances for the future”.
“We were not expecting such a result so soon but it gives us great
motivation that the re-building process (of the game) in the last few months has not been in vain.”
“Unbelievable performance by the boys, going through the championships undefeated and taking out the competition beating Australia 22 to 8 in the final,” Tassell said.
“These young men are the product of the last three years development program and they are starting to show the results.”
“The PNGRFL is extremely proud of these young men who no doubt will be the base for our future Hunters and Kumuls.
“Congratulations to Dennis, Shane, Toksy, Joe, Philip and of course all of the players, Stanton, Gahuna, Warren, Nickson, Bill, Ereman, Eliakim, John, Joel, Anderson, Bali, Dickson, Josiah, Lavax, Solomon.”
Chairman Tsaka said the team will be met on arrival at the Jackson Airport on Wednesday, July 2 with a brief welcome reception being planned to also thank the major sponsors PNG LNG, National Gaming Control Board, PNG Power, Boroko Motors, Air Niugini and Digicel PNG for the part they played in the success.
He also thanked the PNG Olympic Committee for their support.