The Day "Darren Lockyer" played a game of Rugby League in an isolated village in PNG

28 Feb 2017 12:00 AMThe Day "Darren Lockyer" played a game of Rugby League in an isolated village in PNG

Often people forget the reach of influence they have on others, and this story proves that point. When an isolated village in PNG can put a game of Rugby League on and rollout "Darren Lockyer" imagine the influence on Australian kids, who follow these icon types closest movements.

The day “Darren Lockyer” played a game in a PNG village…

A few years ago i was walking in the remote highlands of PNG, it had been a pretty full on few days of intense trekking through the mountains and jungles of the Finnesterre region. Accompanying me was, Mick and ex SAS Medic who was keen to access the history of his father who had fought in this area during WW2. We had already encountered very primitive people who subsisted purely on the crops they grew, it was clear that they didn’t have much, but yet offered us a share of their food every evening.

As we ventured further in to the very steep mountains and trekked where not many had gone before, we occasionally came across evidence of the war in the form of ghost bombers lying quietly on the jungle floor encased in heavy vines. In the afternoon the rains would come and it would pour heavily lashing down upon us making the track very muddy and rivers to overflow, but we pushed on.

Four days after we had started we had finally reached the heights of the range and came upon an isolated village looking very run down, its people clearly struggling with malnutrition and the kids with Pelagra. As usual though we were a major curiosity to them as they rushed to greet us… and once again show us their incredible hospitality. An old bloke with a beard and wily eyes approached us and introduced himself as the Padre of the village, he asked if we could help with the kids who were suffering from all sorts of issues. Our natural reply was “of course we would”. The Padre disappeared and returned with about twenty kids all suffering different issues from tropical ulcers, skin infections, to bronchial conditions… we had seen this before and it wasn’t unusual for us to be still fixing up kids well past midnight under the watch of a headlamp.

We continued to work through it, doing the best we could do for them until it was getting to a stage where our supplies were running out. By 2am that night we had finished and we were absolutely knackered so we fell asleep in a room in the Padre’s grass house on the floor. The next morning we were awoken by the sound of kids gathering outside the house, staggering to our feet we looked over the edge and saw many kids some with bright new bandages covering wounds and laughing excitedly. The Padre made an appearance and said that we should stay as the kids wanted to play a game to say thanks. Of course we agreed. One taller kid stepped forward and spoke with the Padre who produced a key… then climbing up to a padlocked door opened it and disappeared while we all waited and watched. After a few minutes he reappeared holding a very hairy and ancient rugby league ball in his arms, protecting it as the other kids got excited. As myself and Mick sat down and watched this, the kids were organized into two teams.. a little fella oozing confidence announced to the gang that he was “Darren Lockyer”…. And another fella stepped forward and announced that he was “Sam Thaiday”… clearly they were Broncos fans. We sat there amazed that it in the middle of nowhere, with no media, no electronics, no access or no visits that these players had such influence on these kids in the jungle..

Anyway we watched the greatest game of rugby league we ever saw with “Darren Lockyer “ playing a blinder the kids embraced their moment. ( Later i would have access to the Broncos team as i facilitated their pre season training camp, standing in the dark night after a hard slog day listening to some of the players hurting, i told them the story of the kids in the jungle and they listened intently. The real Darren Lockyer particularly moved as was Sam Thaiday, Alfie Langer was unusually quiet. I guess the clear message was that if you have that kind of influence on kids who are completely isolated in the jungles of PNG, then imagine the influence they had as players on kids in the cities of Australia… it was timely as there had been a few indiscretions by some of the younger players that had reached the media at that time.) As me and Mick got ready to leave the village getting ready to say good bye, the kids and their parents appeared and sang a farewell song to us… he looked at me and i knew… reaching into our backpacks we took all the food we had and handed it over to the village people, knowing full well that it meant we would go without food for four days as we returned from the mountains. The remaining first aid and medicines we handed over the Padre with clear instructions, waved goodbye and off we went. I had made a commitment to the Pastor that i would be back the following year and would bring back sporting gear and medicines. Right enough a year later i was back up there with others with backpacks laden with gear and footballs given to me from the Brisbane Broncos, not sure what they did with the big wooly scarves but i knew there would be a use!!