Albert Veratau and Garry Juffa represent two clashing ideologies. Veratauism consist of building the code by forging strong relations with a major partner who will provide financial and technical support. It reached the echelons of our relations with Australia when former PM Rudd pulled strings to get the ball rolling on the NRL contemplating a 2015 entrant for one of our teams. Even at the operational level we saw a mass injection of technical assistance. Whole bunch of blokes flooded our shores brining goodies. The Pacific Cup saw a full team of dimdims in everything. From setting up the PA system, touch judges, promotion and marketing consultants and even water boys. Why even the great Adrian Lam looked far and wide in the great southland for kumuls. Recruiting them from the North all the way to the south and boy they put on a show. Trashing every pacific country that came our way. It was something and Veratauism had prevail in bringing the code much needed attention.
However, the flaw in Veratauism and one that persists in PNG foreign and investment relations is its inability to be absorbed and sustained in national institutions. Whether during or after the initial phase of the development assistance or investment. In this case, PNGRFL’s inability to sustain human and financial capacity in these investments. So when the assistance comes, it’ll be mostly spent on consultants from down under and the four million evaporates. The support services will ikely all come from Australia, will have no long term capacity building developments and the PNGRFL staff and management. When continuous recruitment of big boys from Australia to play for the kumuls, local talent is denied and therefore there is no exposure. In all, collapse is eminent but more so, a nationalistic intervention is attractive. And that is exactly what Juffaism brought. Nationalism + Discontent = Take Over.
With whispered neglect of affiliated associations all over the country, Juffa funded a meeting in Lae in 2009 which voted him as President. It mattered little to the affiliated members of Rudd and Somare’s” Rugby Aid,” multimillion dollar sponsorships or Lam’s predominantly southland kumuls. At the end of the day, all that mattered to the voters was associations were not progressing and even for some, their boys were been denied a kumul jumper.
In true Juffaism, Veratau’s pale crowd was chased out and Lam’s “southland” kumuls flew away. But has this improved our game? I don’t know but what is clear is that there are no winners. As much as Juffa wants to bang the nationalistic drum, he needs technical assistance in management, commercializing the game and training programmes to enhance the code.
While credit must be given to Veratau for bringing these activities, developing long term programmes, recruitment of local based experts in formulating marketing, and plans must be in full and genuine consultations with PNG counterparts. There are examples all over our country on why development assistance collapses and it is largely due to blueprints brought from Canberra and stamped into Waigani without inputs from PNG officials.
Veratau or Juffa, Lam or Gene, win or lose, one thing is for sure, one thing is for sure, the kumuls are an instrument of inspiration and change. Kids sit around the fire places in Kabaufa talking about the mighty lahanais, boys paddling down the fly river chatter about the kumul speedsters, school yard fights over who should be Steven Mead, and supporters like me, go nuts looking for kumul memorabilias.
Sport is capable of great things. Jesse Owens defied the irrational Nazi propaganda of the Aryan superiority, Mandela and Pienaar united a nation on the brink of civil war and who can ever forget what Pini gave PNG. PNGRFL and the kumuls don’t need wins, they need leaders.