Former ARL first grade rugby league referee Bill Harrigan recently officiated over the final of the PNG competition. He reported his experience for the Gold Coast Bulletin:
"You have never tasted true rugby league passion until you have been to a Papua New Guinea grand final. I refereed my second in succession last Sunday in Port Moresby and was as amazed as I was in 2005. It is a thrilling, frightening and exhilarating experience.
"The match was not scheduled to start until 3pm and I was intrigued when told we were leaving for the ground at midday. "We won't get in if we leave any later," I was told.
"Arriving at the ground I soon understood. At just after noon the ground was almost packed and there were five lines of people stretching about 300m waiting to get in. I could sense that there were going to be a lot of very disappointed people.
"That was certainly the case, because just as I blew time-on there was a large 'boom' outside the ground and I saw a plume of tear gas rise. Soon after there was a burst of automatic gunfire as the police 'persuaded' those who could not get in to move on.
"Not long after that one of the main gates was pushed over and a stream of people started to pour through. These were met by a wall of police and police dogs. The gate was put back into place and the game started. Every now and again I would hear another tear gas canister explode outside…."
By the way, Mendi Muruks defeated Goroka Luhanis 24-14 in what, on the field anyway, was a good natured game.
Photo: Cashier at Boroko Food World, PNG Gossip Newsletter