By *PHILIP KEPSON
When the print media published at their prestigious back page a news story with a headline“Mioks in crisis” on the wholesale sacking of the team officials towards the end the first round of the bemobile Cup challenge, patrons of the team were obviously baffled.
Some of them said: “What the hell is going again”, while some said, “Just give up with this Mioks, and forget them”.
Such remarks were inevitable particularly following their daunting performance in the previous two years with allegations of rape and airport brawl incidents involving players of the team.
However, the patron and strong advocate of the team Governor Peter Ipatas and major sponsor, Ela Motors, were charily briefed by the board before the team manager, the head coach, trainer and three players were presented with their marching orders.
In fact, the board under the chairmanship of Robert Ganim, told the Governor and the sponsors that they were coming up with the hard decision on reasons directly related with discipline to protect the team.
Thus, the board did not waste time in recalling former coach Toksy Nema, expoliceman Peter Kapi as team manager and former Kumul Centre Paul Gela and young Norman Simon of the Wabag rugby league as trainers.
They were given clear instructions before allowing them to take charge of the team with strong emphasis on discipline and commitment while telling the players not to stick their nose into the board’s decision.
Soon after the changes, the team went on to record rousing victories against most resilient teams like Mt Hagen Eagles, Mendi Muruks and Lae Bombers as there was apparent sign of desirable improvement in discipline among officials and players.
When the team continued on with its winning spree in matches both at home and in Lae with credible score lines, any speculation that the team was heading for a disaster started to disappear as thousands of Engans from four corners of the province flooding into Johnson Siki oval on Sundays to grant the much-needed support, receptively led by their illustrious provincial leaders including Governor Ipatas, Paul Kurai, Gutnius Lutheran Church Bishop Rev David Piso, Yasua Kome, senior public servants, Wabag town residents and other prominent figures.
In fact, the team that absurd critics and the media speculated to be heading for a disaster received supplementary morale boost when the small business houses in the province, the meticulous public servants and their gracious cosponsor, the Enga provincial government committed over K100,000 to subsidise entrance (gate) fees to encourage more people to come and watch and provide their support in the last four home games which gainfully saw Mioks recording an all out win of their home games to comfortably finish second on the competition ladder of the first ever bemobile Cup with 20 points after Rabaul Guira on 22.
The excitement among local supporters did not stop in Wabag when the competition authorities scheduled all Toyota Mioks final matches against Mendi Muruks, Goroka Lahanis and Masta Mak Rangers to be played in Lae.
The supporters in the province swiftly mobilsed themselves with over 200-500 vehicles including 40 buses and booked out hotels and guest houses in Lae to urge their much-loved team on, which consequently saw the Muruks and Rangers getting belted out of the race while narrowly losing to Lahanis before they paid back in the major semi final showdown last Sunday in Port Moresby with a convincing 18-10 score line.
Despite the victories, particularly with the excitement reaching greatest heights, there were instances of disasters including three car accidents along the Highlands Highway involving over 50 men and women who sustained minor injuries, smashing of car windscreens by hooligans on the road during night travels and lavish spending of their money on the trips to Lae, the enthusiasm continued to become an overriding factor.
Added to the strong support base in Enga were sincere backing by people from the five Highlands provinces including a faction of Sepiks in Lae as the Toyota Mioks team this year is composed extensively of players from various parts of the Highlands region.
Not only the Highlands region but it has also players from Lae where one of them is from Sepik or better known as "a Sepik from Lae" .
In this way, when the team wins, grand celebrations are held in Mt Hagen, Mendi, Kagua, Jiwaka, Goroka, Asaro, Henganofi, Enga, Kundiawa, Sinasina and Lae where the players’ relatives and supporters live.
On the whole, when the players were recruited from the popular Coca-Cola Ipatas Cup in the beginning of this year (before the competition started), to make it to the grand final was not in their mind as the players were from unknown rural leagues.
But Governor Ipatas told them during a Coca-Cola Ipatas Cup presentation night in Wabag after the new team was announced that one of the reasons for forming the Coca-Cola Ipatas Cup was to tap into the hidden talent in the rural sector of the country to give equal opportunity to those who had been overlooked for many years.
He said he had all the confidence that his new team would become competitive in the bemobile Cup challenge.
“I have all the confidence that you will become a competitive team with players from the towns that are participating in the semi professional team. Lift your heads and think positive towards taking on this challenge,” he told the players.
After that, Governor Ipatas held a meeting where he made a few changes to the membership of the board and gave them the challenge of taking on the new team to be successful in the competition.
Despite Governor Ipatas’ confidence in his team, the team under the circumstance started as underdogs with a bunch of unknown players.
However, Governor Ipatas and his new board kept holding their heads high with regular meeting and doing what they thought was best to shape up the team with the aim of proving all critics wrong one day.
Congratulations to Governor Ipatas and his hard working board members, sponsors and supporters for basically doing that (proving critics including the media wrong) when they emerged from nowhere in the competition to be on the top to make the grand final of the prestigious bemobile Cup.
The Toyota Miok board deserves a special credit for taking one of the biggest risks ever to endorse a wholesale sacking of the officials, which later paid off with the greatest reward of seeing a bunch of unknown players beating all odds to qualify eventually for the grand final of the exalted bemobile Cup.
As the two teams, Toyota Mioks and Rabaul Agmark Guria, are moving closer to the greatest showdown on Sunday, the supporters in both camps are gearing up to cheer on their teams, while the Mioks in particular think that if they were the first to bury the Gurias in their own graveyard in 2000 in the former SP Cup with an 8-6 score line in Kokopo before they went onto belt them further with 20-16 in the grand final in the same year, they should be confident of repeat that on Sunday.
Well, let’s wait and see the best team wins.
*Philip Kepson is publicity officer of the Enga Mioks