Source: Christian Nicolussi From: The Daily Telegraph October 20, 2010 12:00AM
THERE is a teacher who earns little more than $16,000 a year. A security guard who pockets $3500. A welder on $5000.
A tyre worker. A meat worker. And a group who happily help out with a cocoa exporting firm.
For many, coming to Australia for the Four Nations was their first time on a plane.
Meet the PNG Kumuls, who will live the football dream when they take on the $10 million Kangaroos this Sunday at Parramatta Stadium.
Farmer David Loko, who featured in The Daily Telegraph last Saturday, earns $850 a year. You could not wipe the smile off his face as he collected a $900 allowance for taking part in the tournament.
In contrast, each Kangaroos player stands to earn around $12,000 just for playing Papua New Guinea – a fee that outstrips what several Kumuls take home each year.
Several Kangaroos players would earn more than the entire 24-man Kumuls squad put together – just $670,000.
“But what you have to remember is a lot of these players own their land, land that is up to 10 and 20 hectares, and land they don’t pay tax on,” Papua New Guinea’s head of mission Gary Juffa said. “They can do whatever they want to that land, and a lot of them live off that land.”
There is extra incentive when the semi-professional Kumuls cross that white line and lock horns with Australia this weekend.
According to coach Stanley Gene, the Four Nations will prove a giant success if three or four players can secure a contract with a club in Australia and start a new life.
“During the World Cup in 2008, a lot of people were whingeing about why we were in the [best] group,” Gene said.
“But I told the boys there would be plenty of media focus on this group and what a great way for the guys to put themselves in the shop window and hopefully get scouted. There were three or four boys in the 2008 Cup whose lives have changed. Some of them have brought family over to Australia. Hopefully we’ll have three or four more after this tournament.”
Gene said a semi-professional competition back home had helped develop the game in recent years.
He also added that a lot of the current Kumuls players had never been on a plane, and it was not long ago the team had to be reminded it was essential – not optional – to use knives and forks while dining on tour.
Skipper Paul Aiton, who played this season at Cronulla, has been swept up by the joy of his lesser-name teammates.
“They’re living the dream. For most of them, it’s their first trip abroad and they’re playing their idols and heroes,”Aiton sad.
“But I think they’ll handle it fine. As soon as that whistle blows they’ll block everything out and just play footy.
“They’ll rip in, for sure, they won’t leave anything in the tank. They don’t get a chance like this very often.
“We’ve read it all in the papers how Australia are going to thrash us, but that’s what you guys think. We’ve got nothing to lose.”