Almanac Footy History: Jason Gwilt and the Papua New Guinea connection

 

 

 

 

 

From Country Victoria to Papua New Guinea

 

 

by Jason Gwilt

 

 

Having read the recent article on Papua New Guinean AFL footballers Ace Oea, Zimmie Farquharson and Thyra Tavil by Jarrod Landells  in the Footy Almanac,  I thought I would recount some of my time in PNG.

 

I arrived in PNG in October 1974 after transferring from the Bank of NSW (now Westpac) in country Victoria  up to the Bank’s head office branch in Port Moresby.  In 1975 I met my wife Nasain who was an air hostess with Air Niugini and we eventually resettled in Melbourne and have one son, James Gwilt, who played 152 AFL matches for St Kilda and Essendon between 2005-2016. James is now the Assistant Coach at Rowville in the EFNL in Melbourne.

 

While in Port Moresby, I played cricket for the Boroko Colts CC which had top cricketers such as PNG reps Kila Alewa, Pala Ura and Charlie Harrison (Charlie actually took three wickets and scored 34 runs against Clive Lloyd’s West Indies in 1976) and Don Fox playing for them. I also played and coached footy with Port Moresby ARFC from 1975-78 and was involved in finals throughout that time. In 1977 we played off in the Grand Final against Koboni at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in front of a crowd of 6500 crowd while myself and my good mate Alan Caire (ex Bank of PNG) were the only expat players, there were a number of expat officials and umpires.Unfortunately we lost by 27 points.

 

One of the boundary umpires was  Peter Michael, a Victorian who was married to a PNG girl, Alice. In June that year they had a son and called him Malcolm. He grew up in Brisbane to become Mal Michael a star Brisbane Lions defender during their great premiership years of 2001-02-03. He also had stints at Collingwood and Essendon during his 238 games.

 

In 2004 James was drafted from the Noble Park FC to St Kilda. He did not come through the normal Under 18 competition and had played for Noble Park as a 17 year old in their Premiership side in the Eastern FL.  In 2005, James played his debut game for the Saints in Round 22 at Docklands against the Brisbane Lions. Starting on the bench he came on up forward and was it coincidence that he was immediately opposed to Mal Michael for a time? We had actually talked about how this may happen before the game so it sort of added a sense a deja vu for me.

 

To my knowledge this was the first time in AFL history that two AFL players of Papua New Guinean heritage had played in the same AFL game and had actually been opposed to one another.

 

Jason and Nasain now live in Cobden Victoria.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Jarrod_L says

    Thank you for adding your experiences, Jason! Wonderful personal take on the high flying history of footy in PNG.

    I hope there will be many more occasions like when your son played on Mal in the future!

  2. Hi Jason

    Great to chat to you on the phone. Thanks for getting in contact after reading Jarrod’s piece.

    I reckon a PNG-themed Almanac lunch would go really well.

    Cheers
    JTH

  3. Richard E. Jones says

    Your piece brings back lots of PNG and Moresby memories, Jason. I lived in Papua New Guinea for 13 years, played Aussie Rules footy for the Port Moresby club, had a beer or 2 (or 200) at the Boroko Sports Club, and broadcast Papuan Rugby League club matches for the ABC station, 9PA Port Moresby. The PRL was many, many years in front of the AFL and NRL in playing competition matches on Friday nights and they were hugely popular with the Papuan fans as well as the expatriate faithful. And as we all know PNG is the only country in the world where rugby league is the national sport.

    Aussie Rules didn’t get much of a look-in as far as ABC live calls went, but I remember on the 1960s 6.30–7 pm Saturday night 9PA sports wrap-up show which I hosted from time to time there were regular correspondents willing to chat — often right through their allotted time spans.

    Back to playing Aussie Rules. In the mid-60s our South Melbourne-themed white guernseys with a red V were wool. At each quarter break we had to stand on the edge of the playing group and take it in turns to wring them out. Didn’t Peter Michael not only play for Koboni but also coach them at one stage ??

    And the old Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. What memories of that place. In the early Seventies Michael Somare (later Sir Michael) pro-rogued Parliament so members could go down in their black official limousines to watch a big Commonwealth-rated boxing 10-rounder. Papua had a Commonwealth Top Ten rated welterweight, the late Martin Beni, and he was matched against Sth. Aussie Colin Cassidy. Beni won on a TKO in front of a crowd estimated at between 9,000–10,000. It’s a marvel how the trees which ringed the Stadium were still standing because they’d been weighed down with all the PNG free-loaders who’d climbed up to have a free peek.

    And calling the fights from ringside on radio back in the day was intriguing. I’d do the blow-by-blow account and then in the break between rounds we’d have one commentator do a Pidgin English summary and a second one who’d take over in Hiri Motu: the lingua franca of coastal Papua.These were supposed to take no more than 30 seconds each but the next round would often be underway before I could get a word in !!

    \

  4. Kevin Densley says

    I enjoyed reading this interesting piece. Thanks, Jason.

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