Originally published – The Women’s Game – December 1, 2017
The newly formed Papua New Guinea’s women’s rugby league team have created a much needed presence for sports women in their country following a spirited World Cup campaign.
With a United Nations report putting domestic violence levels committed against women in PNG at 67 per cent, the Orchids have created a much needed pathway for women to aspire and escape the cycle of domestic violence.
Orchids captain Cathy Neap told Inside Sport how important the team’s presence was in giving squad members a profile at home.
Neap said her squad were now performing similar feats on the field as PNG men’s team making what she believes is a permanent change for the better.
“I’m so proud to play for my country and to be a role-model for the young girls of my country,” Neap told Inside Sport.
“There’s about 40 different leagues in the country, in different parts of the country, in the highlands, they hold their own trials and they pick their zones and then they come in for the big national trials.”
Amelia Kuk, a dual Australian Jillaroo and Orchids representative in 2017, echoed Neap’s sentiments having travelled to PNG to play the Orchids in late September.
Kuk said her Jillaroos non-selection didn’t hurt too much, as she knew playing for PNG would allow her to bring her vast experience to an inexperienced Orchids outfit.
“It was a wonderful experience playing in front of a full-house at Oil Search Stadium… it was an emotional time though, as I’d never been in a situation to play against my country and I couldn’t sing my own country’s national anthem,” she said.
Despite not winning a game at the tournament, the side pushed their opponents, with Kuk and Neap among two of their best in a lively Orchids team.
PNG coach Dennis Miall described witnessing the squad members’ development as his World Cup highlight.
He said his side’s efforts would inspire the women of PNG.
“It’s going to help our women… there’s something to strive for now with the Orchids being part of the World Cup,” he said.
“Most of them are young mothers, that’s why we’re so proud of them.
“Just the short amount of time and the hard work they’ve put in and the change in their game and their personalities.
“The game is going to grow, and it’s not only for the boys now, but for young girls and women as well.”
The Orchids lost their opening match 38-8 to England before going down 10-4 to Canada.
They also suffered a 38-0 loss to number one ranked New Zealand.
(*Feature photo changed from original article as Caroline Layt Journalism site doesn’t have licensing arrangement with Getty Images/Photo: Caroline Layt)