NOOSA – Now here’s a challenge to readers, especially if you, or someone you know or ought to know, was in and around Rabaul in the early 1970s.
My friend and back fence neighbour, freelance writer and all-round good bloke, Ian Hauser, has brought to our collective attention this spectacular photograph from 1972.
It shows Aussie Rules teams Vunakanau Tigers and New Ireland flying high on a Saturday afternoon at Queen’s Park in Rabaul.
But before I go further, I must introduce your task: it is to identify any of the people in the photo and, if you happened to be there on that day, to unload your recollections using the Comments link below.
I've given the pic more scale here to see if it helps.
The photo was contributed to The Footy Almanac by David Bridie, known to many of our readers as a wonderful composer and musician, who has a long association with Papua New Guinea, especially through his music and PNG’s music, which he has done so much to nurture and promote down the years.
The Footy Almanac is a popular website, publishing around 40 pieces a week: not just on sport, its coordinating editor John Harms says, but “across a far broader spectrum to include the arts and broader culture, the odd spot of literature and including some good old rabble rousing”.
The Almanac relies on independent, unpaid contributors for its content and Ian Hauser is also one of the daily editors “who look after the life of the site,” Harms’ says.
Writers and artists submit their pieces and the daily editor prepares and publishes them. Our reader-contributors know the drill.
I notice that Ian is in charge today as Thursday editor and is being worked hard because he was also Tuesday editor.
A retired teacher, Ian does his writing and editing at “an immaculate desk (not an item out of place) taking in as much sport as possible, especially rugby league,” a fever he caught as a lad growing up on a farm in the Lockyer Valley inland of Brisbane.
Ian established WriteRightEditing a few years back to work with writers on major projects and is a calming presence in our neighbourhood, always returning the empty bottles I have inadvertently hurled over the fence when trying to eradicate possums.
Were the bottles full and of suitable vintage, Ian would drink them.
So yesterday, after he read a comment to the Almanac by one ‘Richard’, Ian contacted me about the photo.
It took me less than a nanosecond to work out the comment was from Richard Jones of Bendigo, who regularly pops up on PNG Attitude.
Richard and I were classmates at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in 1962-63 and, like me, after teaching for a while he moved into journalism, spending 24 years as a reporter, sports editor and business editor of the Bendigo Advertiser.
During his 13 years in PNG, Richard played Aussie Rules in Port Moresby. “Our club wore old South Melbourne colours: white with a red V,” he recalls.
He also freelanced as a journalist and sports broadcaster for the Post-Courier and Australian Broadcasting Commission (as it was then) in PNG and, later, for 4AAA Brisbane, the National Indigenous Radio Service and, if I remember correctly, he’s still opining on sport through local community radio in Bendigo.
When he saw that 50 year old pic from Rabaul, and the plea to identify who might be in it, Richard recalled his old ASOPA buddies, me and Henry Bodman.
It’s a pity Henry’s no longer alive because he would have known or known who would have known or he would have strenuously urged someone to find out.
But Henry died in 2016 after a seven year refusal to accept that the multiple myeloma would win.
He was an imposing figure – a tall good-looking Victorian like Richard, but with a handlebar moustache. He was one of the older students at ASOPA and probably a leader since the womb.
When the DC8 landed in Port Moresby in November 1963, Richard stayed on, I went to the Highlands and Henry was posted to Rabaul, first to Tavui Primary School near the World War II Japanese submarine base, and from 1965-68 as headmaster of Kabagap Primary School not far away at Kokopo.
During his four years in Rabaul, Henry both played footie and he built the sport into a formidable presence, later honoured as the first life member of New Guinea Islands Australian Football League.
From Rabaul he became inaugural president of PNG Australian National Football Council and, in 1969, after he was transferred to Port Moresby to head the Hohola Demonstration School, perhaps the most illustrious school in PNG, he became president of the Port Moresby Australian Rules Club, where he both built a strong financial base and on-field success for the club.
Through these years Henry also played representative football for Papua against New Guinea, Cairns, Mt Isa, Alice Springs, the Gold Coast and Darwin.
He left PNG a better place in 1975 and, after he became a successful entrepreneur in Brisbane, was able to return to the country many times, particularly during his period as Rotary district governor of a region encompassing south-east Queensland, PNG and the Solomons.
It would have been remiss of me to publish that wonderful photo from David Bridie without telling the story of Henry.
His long time professional and Rotary colleague, the late Murray Bladwell, summed up Henry in an obituary when he wrote:
"Henry will be remembered by his mates for his well known and constant challenge to the world... I'm Henry Bodman and I don't care who knows it!"
Henry’s not with us to tell us more about that photograph and the flying men seeking that hovering ball. I wonder who can?
Leave a comment if you can assist.