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Hard men of Papuan rugby league (cont)

Turner top
Papua versus New Guinea c 1963 - in the 1960s the biggest event on the PNG sporting calendar


PORT MACQUARIE – I came across ‘The hard men of the Papuan rugby league, a brief memoir PNG Attitude ran in 2007 and it locked me into 20 minutes of going down memory lane reflecting on rugby league in Port Moresby in the 1960s.

I played for Kone Tigers in 1963, '64 and early '65 before the Education Department posted me to Kerema.

A bloke couldn’t get much of a game down there but, in any event, I was intending to go pinis towards the end of that final year.

I’d always been a fan of Kone Tigers, mainly due to my Dad, Fred (‘Fearless Fred’) Turner, who at various times probably held every position on the committee from the late 1950's to his death in 1977.

During my first year of competition in the Papuan League, I thoroughly enjoyed my Reserve Grade exploits with players like Geoff Drake, Dada Toka, Mick Duffy, Cliff Southwell, Bernard, John Wood, Wara Wele, Bruce Fields, Graham Corling and Dick Gilbert (before he went up to glory in First Grade).

Theirs are the names I recall among many others who’ve slipped my memory.

I do remember – and with trepidation – the day in 1963 when I was called up to First Grade to fill in for the injured No 7, the famous Eddie Bampton.

I think the game was against DCA and I was marking David ‘Darby’ Hibbard, who passed away here in Port Macquarie some years back.

It was the first of three occasions for me in First Grade that year. The second was against Hawks, where I filled in for Mick Eaton against John Oberdorf and the third time I was playing five-eighth against Paga, I think filling in for an injured Dale Gooding.

In that encounter I recall coming up against a school mate of mine, Willie Luk (son of the famous Koki tailors, the Luk Poy Wai family.

I was lucky enough to play most of the 1964 season in First Grade alongside Geoff Drake, Eddie Bampton, Dale Gooding, John Kaputin, Brian King, Wara Wele, Alua Mana and Ron Julien.

As a youngster, I’d been fortunate to have a number of mentors in the hurly-burly of Moresby rugby league, primarily Mum & Dad, Zena and Fred, as well as Bev & Eric Baumgartner (he’d been a former Queensland junior representative and premiership winning player with Kone in 1959 and 1960).

Joan and Eddie Bampton, Ron Hawthorne, Mick Duffy, 'Speed' McLeod, Merv McGregor, Dick Gilbert, Ron Southwood and Ian Skinner also assisted me along the way.

I remember well the infamous Friday night riot when we played an undefeated Paga.

A scuffle broke out under the goal posts and suddenly hundreds of spectators ran onto the field, believing my second row team-mate, Alua Mana, had been on the brunt of unfair treatment from Paga fullback, Cliff Hopper.

Linesman Ron McDowell was trying to use his little wooden flag to dispense justice and disperse the now milling hordes.

It was all in the dark, as the PRL in their wisdom felt it best to switch off the ground lights.

Anyway, the game was called off, which was disappointing as we were leading 10-nil at the time (and likely to go to 12-0 if Eddie converted Alua's try under the posts).

It looked highly likely that we would inflict Paga's first defeat for 1964. Not to be.

pap v ng 64
Program cover for the 1964 Papua versus New Guinea matches

In 1963 I travelled to Lae and in 1964 to Rabaul for the two-yearly Papua v New Guinea clashes.

They were definite highlights for a youngster – travelling for representative matches with plane loads of players, support staff and supporters.

Another highlight was the end-of-season trip with DCA to Mareeba in North Queensland.

And I remember distinctly, although I probably shouldn’t, a pub crawl in Cairns with the two DCA props, one of whom I think was Billy Baker, a brewer at Moresby's famous SP Brewery.

Anyway we survived and I don't know how many of the possible 32 pubs that Cairns boasted at the time we managed to have a beer in, but I vaguely remember falling in love the daughter of the owner of the Criterion Hotel.

Upon my return to Moresby, Dad was not very happy with rumours circulating that I was going to accept an offer to join DCA the following year.

A highlight for many people, and especially the Kone Tigers fraternity, was the presentation to Eddie Bampton on 31 July 1964 to mark his 100th appearance for Kone, the first time it had happened in the history of the Papuan Rugby League.

During those years, a number of younger players from all the clubs formed a team of Papuan Colts and played a similar New Guinea team in Popondetta.

The following year we played a team of secondary and high school league players, the Southern Mustangs, students who were back home on holidays from down south.

Three tests had to be played. The Colts won the first and the Mustangs the second.

I was contacted in Kereme to fly in and give the Colts a helping hand and this was reported in the Post-Courier, although I think it was still the South Pacific Post then, that I was flying from Kerema to join the Colts line-up.

As luck would have it, the article was read by one Bernie Westmore, a senior administrator in the Education Department.

Evidently he’d seen my leave application and I was instructed to attend his office as soon as I landed in Moresby.

Dad saved my skin by explaining to Westmore that I had gone through the correct channels and my leave approved by the District Education Officer in Kerema, Nev Dachs.

Nevertheless it was an unnerving experience to be carpeted by this articulate, fearsome, balding bow-tie wearing post-war administrator.

Crowd at a 1969 game - grounds were always packed wherever rugby league was played

As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, my wife and I were honoured to have dinner with Leila and John Kaputin here in Port Macquarie in 2017. He was a top athlete and became a prominent diplomat for Papua New Guinea on the world stage.

If you can add to my store of memories drop a line in the Comments section below. I’m really looking forward to reading some of your rugby league stories from those grand old days.


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Richard Jones

Nah, Waza --- never a PRL player. But an Aussie Rules player for one brief season in the Papuan AFL competition, playing for the Port Moresby club. We wore the old South Melbourne colours of white with a red sash.

I moved on to the South Pacific Post (later the PNG Post-Courier) as the PRL daily scribe along with my ABC duties.

As Keith J would confirm we made four toea a line in those far-off days at the paper, but that's an improvement from zero toea slogging away for an Aussie Rules club in Moresby's humidity.

I never owned a sports car. Started off our married life in 1971 with a second hand Mini-Minor then moved to a brand new Mazda. I think the model was called a Capella but it's a long time ago.

I mightn't have told you about calling one dramatic Papua vs New Guinea Inter-Territory league match from Rabaul for the ABC radio's 9RB Rabaul and 9PA Port Moresby.

We were in a flimsy bamboo and kunai structure on stilts, situated about the midway part of the oval.

One of our special comments men got so delighted when NG scored a try he rocked up and down on his seat.

The whole structure tilted sideways but stayed upright -- just.

The producer told us all to stay firmly seated and to convey our excitement with our voices --- not our legs.

Have no idea who won the match. Was just concentrating on getting out of the booth before it collapsed.

Warren (Waza) Turner

Firstly, my apologies for the delay in responding to your postings, but I hadn't looked at PNG Attitude for quite a while. And thanks Richard and Geoff for posting comments - a little trip down Kone's memory lane.

I remember when we played different sports during the Summer period, just to keep the team together for the next Rugby League season. I think we tried hockey one year and baseball another year.

Funnily enough, I came across my old baseball mitt from all those years ago. Incidently my find did not surprise my wife of 55 years at all!

Richard, did you ever play for Kone in 1964? Your name rings a bell somewhere from the past. And did you own a sports car?

Geoff - 1969 in Ipswich must have been when I was stationed, at the Amberley RAAF Base I was playing with the RAAF rugby league team in the Ipswich comp.

I moved on to play for Booval Swifts the following year.

Geoff, could you ask Keith for my email address? And you tell me where Peter is these days?

I have an interesting photo taken at the Top Pub, possibly at a Lions Club Dinner with you, Peter, my brother Phil and two sisters whose names escape me. It must have been taken in late 1964.

I also have a photo of the two of us and your Dad Jack out in his boat. That would have been in 1963 or '64.

Richard E. Jones

HI Wazza - I was the South Pacific Post and then the Post-Courier's rugby league correspondent during the late sixties.

I called quite a few inter-territory Papua vs New Guinea clashes for ABC radio during that time, particularly on 9PA Port Moresby and later when 9RB Rabaul joined the hook-up.

I remember Eddie Bampton quite well. He was the heart and soul of Kone Tigers, but during my association with the Papua Rugby League they were the cellar dwellers, particularly in the late sixties.

Do you remember gun centre Mark Harris who went on from Kone Tigers to play with Easts in the major Sydney rugby league competition.

He went on to play gridiron - first in the USA and later in Canada.

And what about Digger Annand who was a gun for Aviat, the Department of Civil Aviation club in the PRL.

A bloke we knew as the Pale Whale was a teammate of Digger's at DCA. Can't remember his name.

Geoff Drake

Hi Warren - A long time since I heard your name. I think the last time I saw you was in Ipswich 1969. We are now in Hervey Bay.

Look forward to hearing from you. Regards.

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