SYDNEY – As you, my more faithful readers, will already know from my previous scribblings, during my time in Papua New Guinea I had the pleasure and privilege of playing rugby league with some highly talented players, both Papua New Guinean and expatriate.
Of the latter group Sean Dorney and Bill Phillips were standouts. In the 1975 season the three of us were the only expats playing for the Port Moresby Club, Paga. The rest of the team was mainly drawn from the New Guinea Islands.
Towards the end of the season we had to play Gulf, a team of big tough players drawn mainly from Gulf Province. A win for us was essential if we were to qualify for the finals.
So to ensure this was the case, one of Paga’s committee was dispatched to Rabaul to obtain a magic potion, or puripuri, which, we were told, if applied to the body would result in certain victory.
Prior to the game we all smeared it on. All over ourselves. Good Rabaul puripuri.
But something went amiss. The game was an absolute disaster for us. Everything that could go wrong did so. We were well and truly thrashed.
I made my own contribution to the debacle by sending a hospital pass to Sean Dorney. The ball arrived at the same time as a big Gulf forward who flattened Sean, slightly rearranging his facial features. Sean, ever the gentleman, refused to apportion any blame on me.
(It didn't seem to do too much damage, the following year Sean went on to captain the Kumuls in the PNG team's first international match - in fact, he's Kumul number 13.)
As we trooped dejectedly of the field, our season over, naturally the question arose as to why the puripuri hadn’t worked. The answer from Paga officials was simply that Gulf’s magic was stronger than ours.
This seemed to disregard the fact that we missed vital tackles, dropped the ball, gave away needless penalties, and failed to capitalise on try scoring opportunities.
It was all the fault of our weak puripuri.