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PNG trio represent Country Queensland but next step eludes

  • Saturday, March 25 2006 @ 12:56 am ACDT
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In another impressive performance by AFLPNG's junior pathways program five young players were in the mix for selection to represent Country Queensland in the Kookaburras under 18's squad that played at the Queensland state championships, with Emmaus Wartovo leading the way on the scoreboard. The country squad struggled against the rapidly improving city teams at the championships through March 2006, but the next step for AFLPNG will be to get some of their lads into the state U18s team picked from the tournament.

Eliijah Barewoi and Donald Berry missed out on the final Kookaburras team, but Peter Milaura, Emmaus Wartovo and Ali Pinda represented their nation. The Papuans first had to perform well enough in a trial match to make the team, which saw Country North defeat Country South.

Wartovo is son of former Kumul (PNG Rugby League national) Billy Wartovo and impressed in the following matches, kicking goals when his team were struggling to register. He also made the U16 team in 2004. PNG players are eligible to represent Queensland through their relationship with AFLQ. The Queensland regions competing in the championships were the Gold Coast Stingrays (champions), Western Taipans (runners-up), South-East Bushrangers, Suncoast Power, Northern Raiders and Country Kookaburras.

The Kookas were competitive in two of their matches, losing by 11 and 28 points, but suffered a big loss to the runners-up the Taipans. Wartovo kicked 2 of his side's 7 goals first up, 2 out of 2 against the Taipans and 1 of 6 in their final match.

Unfortunately none of the trio were selected in the Queensland U18 Scorpions side which will play in the Australian state championships in Melbourne in July. Three fellow Kookaburra team-mates did make the squad so PNG can't be too far away. With junior footy exploding in the Sunshine state the quality of talent coming through the ranks is now clearly AFL standard, with numerous players from the recent Scorpions sides being selected in the AFL draft. Having a Papuan make that squad will be an aim for AFLPNG in the next couple of years.

And not all is lost for the youngsters. These general words of wisdom from the Queensland Talent manager, Mark Browning: "Selectors will review this squad as the season progresses and monitor games and gain feedback from club coaches as to player performances. All selectors are mindful of the ambitions of boys wanting to play at the highest level and take the selection of this group very seriously.

This certainly happened last year with some players not selected in the initial squad making the final team to go to Melbourne for the Nationals, including Michael West who was added to the group after good performances with Redlands and ultimately was drafted by the Western Bulldogs".

Given the PNG boys have presumably returned home their chances this year would seem over, but good performances might see them return to the Australian footy system in future.