Friday, July 12, 2013

PNG rugby league riot fallout

ABC Radio Australia

In PNG's highlands, there's still tension after a violent riot at a rugby league match in the town of Wabag left one person dead and many seriously injured.
The brawl happened near the end of a local rugby league game between the Lae Snax Tigers from Morobe Province and the Enga Mioks from the Enga Province.
PNG Rugby League has banned all remaining games of the local competition for the year.
The president of PNG Rugby, Graham Osborne, says the incident must be understood in the context of its location.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Graham Osborne, president of PNG Rugby
OSBORNE: Rugby league is trying to expand into areas of the Highlands and expand the game, and Wabag is a place where rugby league is very, very big. So the gates were put up there to expand the game.
COUTTS: And what about the NRL image because State of Origin every year there are brawls and fights and people get hurt. So what about the image of the game now in PNG and what needs to be done?
OSBORNE: I think it's an isolated incident, as you know when you rang me yesterday I was away and I got this information on exactly what happened and it appears that it happened outside the ground. The thing is security allowed, was not very good at the ground and that's why the suspension was done. And these people that were allowed inside the ground, there's very primitive weapons, bits and pieces and the fight actually started outside the ground, it never entered into the ground. So rugby league as you so rightly say has cancelled all matches at that particular ground till further notice, and have taken into their own hands to discipline the people involved in this, that's what's done, you have to understand that in Wabag in the Highlands area sometimes it's very volatile with warring factions that still goes on. But we're trying to expand the game in the area and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. 
COUTTS: Do you know what sparked it?
OSBORNE: Apparently it was a drunk man outside the area and he was hurling abuses at another village people and those village people took it and turned to take retribution upon themselves. 
COUTTS: Well the games have now been cancelled at this ground for the rest of the year. What needs to be done between now and next season?
OSBORNE: A lot is going to be done to rugby league, rugby league is on a very big high in Papua New Guinea and as you know Mal Meninga is the coach of the team, the Kumuls that represents PNG in the World Cup, nominee himself has done marvelous things in such a short time for the game up here. The game is growing, we've got a new board in place that is fantastic for us and we're not going to tolerate these sort of things that have happened. But we do in Papua New Guinea and these sort of things happen from time to time. That doesn't legitimise it but at the end of the day we live in a world where sometimes we try to take the game to outside areas, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
COUTTS: Were any of the players involved once the brawl erupted?
OSBORNE: No, none of the players were involved at all. In fact there's been an outcry from people at Wabag themselves because they wanted rugby league in that area and we wanted rugby league in that area, and unfortunately it didn't work well that day. You have to understand too that up in the areas of the upper Highlands, some warring factions are still warring and some are making peace, and that's just the way it is here.
COUTTS: Now at a time when NRL is trying to get a PNG team into the Australian domestic competition, is this a setback?
OSBORNE: No, it's a very isolated incident.
COUTTS: You keep saying that but it's not really an isolated incident because there are brawls after origin games just about every year?
OSBORNE: No that's not correct, I don't know where you got that from, that's an old thing from years and years gone by and things have improved up here dramatically. And I think the people who say those things ought to come to Papua New Guinea and have a look.

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