Writes Zebedee Kumpio | Wepio Media Agency
Zulu Mates from Uthupia village are the 2021 champions of the Nembi Valley Grassroots cup after defeating Mele Pond 7- 4 in a physical yet entertaining match yesterday. The tournament which is a brainchild of Miseck Ekai and sponsored by prominent young lawyer Emmanuel Kewi has seen its ending on a very high note after completion of 12 regular rounds to its first ever grand final.
The local tournament was graced by the presence of some prominent people in both rugby league fraternity and the province. Newly appointed Rabaul Gurias coach Francis Ray, Provincial rugby league coordinator Thomas Undupia, PNG Kumuls prop Stanton Albert, Former Kroton Hela Wigmen Captain Melvin Paul and Deputy Provincial Administrator and Uthupia community leader Fibik Simon Kilip were amongst the invited guests.
Supporters of both teams flooded Utuphia Elementary School Park to witness the spectacle. Zulus led by Nomo brothers Richard and older brother Benedict came out with all guns blazing as they capitalized on their big forwards to advance meters regardless of the Mele men’s resilient defence. The Zulus forward pack were hard to contain with their continues treat in attack bringing Mele Pond’s defence to its knees.
The Zulus were the first to register point through a conversation followed by field goal from 30 meters out. Mele Ponds fought back with two penalty conversations that saw the Meles taking the lead for the first time 20 minutes before the full time. Meles excitement were short lived when Zulu Mates 184 cm tall Benedict Nomo scored the winning try of the match 8 minutes into fulltime.
Nembi Valley Grassroots cup Sponsor Emmanuel Kewi expressed gratitude to everyone that one way or the other help support the tournament which had impacted the lives of young men and women, who laid down drugs and other illegal activities to take part in the tournament. Mr Kewi pledged his support for next years tournament by committing K20, 000 to help run the game.
SHP provincial rugby league coordinator Mr Thomas Undupia thank Mr Ekai for standing out of the ordinary for a young man like him to host such a big tournament which involved 12 council wards of central and Upper Poroma in the Poroma LLG. He offered his support to help affiliate the local league to PNG RFL if it satisfies criterias and standards that is set by the PNGRFL board.
Agmark Rabaul Gurias head coach Francis Ray was impressed by the number of hidden talents that needs exposure and expressed same sentiments calling out for the need to affiliate the league so that players can be available for selections.
PNG Kumul Prop Stanton Albert made a commitment to supply them with Rugby balls and other field equipment’s for the next years tournament. He said he was a local boy just like them from Mendi that went on to play for the PNG Kumuls and Penrith Panthers NSW side because of discipline and commitment.
SHP Deputy Provincial Administrator and Uthupia community leader Mr Fibick Simon Kilip was full of praise for the youths and the surrounding community for the completion of the tournament on a high note. He bought the trophy of the tournament so as new Jersey sets for the Grand final teams and presented more the K3000 to cater for the cost of running the grand final. He also committed new Jersey sets for the teams that will participate next year.
“I thank its and everyone of you especially the people of Poroma for looking after this tournament, the sponsors and all stakeholders involve for hosting this tournament successfully and peacefully. On the same note I thank the invited guests, media team and spectators for coming to watch the first ever grand final of Nembi Valley Grassroots Cup,” said Mr Kilip.
Mr. Ekai also thanked Luke Simon Akop for K5000 to run the tournament as well as Solomon Bamu for helping to finance the finals game.
Meanwhile, selections were already made for the Nembi Valley Grasshoppers Rugby League team that will participate in the coming SHP 9s that will be played in Mendi by more than 30 teams from all around PNG