What they are saying about Kumuls

By Wayne Heming, AAP  

They're the Four Nations underdogs, given no chance against rugby league super powers Australia, New Zealand and England. But the always-smiling Kumuls, playing for the first time under Papua New Guinea's very own Wally Lewis - the ageless Stanley Gene - are in Australia to play for far more than glory.
According to rookie coach Gene, the Kumuls are playing for the future youth of a country besieged by serious social issues, tribal killings and crying out for leaders who can force a cultural changes so desperately needed following 35 years of independence.

In a rugged, harsh country of almost 1,000 tribes speaking more than 800 different languages, PNG's government believes these young footballers can deliver hope and change for millions of young people.
Local and national governments and global multi-national mining companies have united to build a platform for reform.
Rugby league - a religion in PNG - is their vehicle to bring about those reforms.
Some of the current PNG squad come from tribes and ghetto settlements.
They're either unemployed or earn a few dollars a day to feed their families.
They're living the dream of every young kid in PNG, playing rugby league against the world's best.
But they've been made aware by their country's leaders of the bigger picture and the ultimate role they're expected to play in shaping their people's future.
Garoka-born Gene is an icon in the strife-torn PNG where young men in tribes arm themselves with knives, axes and guns.
Travel with Gene, even into the dangerous highlands, and you're safer than you would be in the company of the US President and his body guards.
That's the type of power some of these young Kumuls will have to educated and change PNG's youth.

Gene, (EDS: PRONOUNCED GENNAY) whose age has long been a mystery with estimates between 32 and 58, is extremely passionate about rugby league.
But he's more passionate about PNG and what he and his band of young players can achieve not just on the playing fields, but within the communities of PNG.
"I want to develop these players, I want to develop junior players, make PNG players better footballers and better leaders for our country," says the well-spoken Gene who played close to 300 games in the UK and 26 Tests for his country.

"This is not just about rugby league.
"It's about violence against women, it's about drug abuse, it's about alcohol abuse, it's about HIV Aids," he says, watching his young players train.
"These are the kinds of issues I want to drive forward to these young kids so that they get a package in life, not just play rugby league."
Gene's vision is shared by PNGRL chairman Gary Juffa, who during the team's week-long camp in Ipswich before their opening game against Australia in Sydney at the weekend, outlined the mission they were on.
"These boys are future role models for our youth," he told AAP.
"They're leaders our younger generation will look up to.
"They carry the hopes of millions of our young people.
"This is about much more than rugby league.
"We're using this (Four Nations) to nationalise our country as a means to address a lot of social issues that affect our people.
"They (players) can return to their tribes and address issues like alcohol abuse, drug abuse and violence against women.
"You can't get a guy with a brief case to do that job.
"You have to know the villages, you have to know the ghettos and the settlements.
"People look up to players and will listen to the messages they spread."
PNG purposely picked most of their Four Nations squad from their local competition with the exception of Cronulla hooker Paul Aiton and Ryan Tongia, who played under-20s for Gold Coast Titans this year.

It's hoped Gene can mould them into the nucleus of PNG's 2013 World Cup side after which the players will become role models throughout PNG.
"There are so many rugby league players in PNG waiting for the door to open so they can display their skills to earn a living and make something of their life," said Juffa.
"Many of these young players come from areas where tribal fighting is continuous, it never stops.
"They'd like to stop that. They'd like to work against that, they'd like to get out of that.
"For these players, this is their dream, this is their way out."
Juffa said many of the players in the squad lived in rough and extremely harsh environments.
"They're walking around barefoot every day," he said.
"They have to be conscious of their tribal enemies who would kill them without hesitation if they were caught in the wrong place.
"If you go into the wrong area, you will be killed, no hesitation."
Australian players tell remarkable stories of touring PNG where fans are so fanatical that armed police and military use tear gas and rubber bullets to calm them down during Test matches.
"Rugby league is our No.1 sport in PNG. There's no other sport that comes close," said Juffa.
"It's a religion without a temple; it's a religion without monks, without spiritual leaders.
"That's what we're trying to do now, we're trying to put that in place because only then, can that religion really take off.
"If we don't do that, all it will be is a cult."



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