The 27th of October 2019 will be etched in Papua New Guinea’s sporting history as one of the country’s proudest sporting moments since Independence. It’s a moment that’s taken many years, many administrators, many players and a fair number of coaches all with the ultimate goal of taking PNG to greater heights like the World Cup. And that’s what the cricketers achieved on the 27th of October by qualifying directly for a place in next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
There are two main reasons why the qualification means so much.
The road to world cup hasn’t been an easy one. With so many qualifying tournaments and rankings, PNG has had to undergo a rigorous process and qualifying system. The Barramundis have shown great focus and determination and of course they have instilled in them that “never give-up” attitidue.
The other reason and perhaps unique to Papua New Guinea and the cricketing world is that almost all the players are born and bred in Papua New Guinea. They are basically all village boys.
Barramundis coach Joe Dawes knows how to make it on the big stage and he’s basically guided the village boys onto a stage many athletes in the country only dream of – an opportunity to rub shoulders with the big boys of cricket!
A former fast bowler with the Queensland Bulls, an assistant coach with the Australia women’s team and prior to taking on the Barramundis role a bowling coach for the Indian cricket team, Dawes’ ticks all the boxes. He’s not overly surprised by the success given the talent and work ethic he’s seen in the current crop of players he’s had to take charge of.
But on 27th of October the game against Kenya didn’t quite start the way Dawes and many cricketing fans around the country would have liked. There was an air of confidence at least among the PNG cricket fans that the “boys” would make it home smoothly to “finish it off”.
But there’s a saying in cricket that “cricket is a funny game” and a funny game it was against the Kenyans as PNG tumbled to a surprising 6 for 19 with most of those expected to make big scores back in the pavilion.
Enter the swashbuckling Norman Vanua and PNG scraped in to set a target of 118 which to the eyes of nervous PNG cricketing fans maybe still wasn’t enough. Dawes on the other hand thought differently.
Was a few tense moments at 6/19 though. But scrapping to 118 we knew we had enough if we bowled well.
And bowled well they did as Vanua ripped through the top order with early wickets and captain courageous Assad Vala and CJ Amini who were earlier disappointing with the bat pinned down the run rate for the Kenyans and took vital wickets at crucial stages.
Eventually Papua New Guinea toppled Kenya in what could be considered as a match comprised of a roller coaster of emotions. But what was it like in the camp on finally making it, we asked the coach:
Probably one of relief and excitement. This group has worked so hard to achieve this it was special moments to be together!
The Barramundis’ build up to the qualifying tournament wasn’t actually plain sailing though. There were the ups and downs prior to this tournament and it’s fair to say that while PNG had the potential to qualify, a direct qualification in the round-robin came a little unexpected. Dawes did find it a little surprising but a pleasant one indeed.
We expected to make the second stage but this has been a nice bonus.
A nice bonus indeed.
So what’s the key to this “nice bonus” we asked the former Queensland Bulls fast bowler. Is there something we can all take out from Barramundis. Dawes confidently asserted:
For the team it’s belief in the vision and hard work. I also think the great bond this group has and how they stick together in good and bad times.
While many Papua New Guineans have gone on social media praising the efforts of the team and celebrating the victory, we asked Dawes what this success means to him personally. Obviously, with someone who has a colourful CV having stints with the Australia womens team and a powerhouse cricketing nation like India, what does this Barramundis success mean to him at a personal level?
Just pride in this group and the people that support us. It is nice to help the boys achieve history for the great country of Papua New Guinea. I have been lucky enough to win a lot of things as a coach but this is certainly up there as a highlight.
And before we could conclude the interview, we had to ask the coach one mind boggling question. How does he handle the team song?
Now, if you follow the Barramundis, you will find that one of the highlights about the team is the way they celebrate a wicket and the way they celebrate a win. The cricketing fans, particularly those overseas love this rather unique celebration. PNG is a country with a staggering 800+ languages. So it can be difficult to come up with a song that could mean so much and be sung with pride. In the case of the Barramundis, the language of the song and meaning of the song doesn’t divide – it Unites which is why the team have this special bond.
How does Joe Dawes who probably only knows English take part in singing the team song which is predominantly sung in Motu?
They sing it with pride. I love being a part of that and chip in during the English bits at the end. I try and contribute by clapping or banging something to the beat. Great fun!
Thank you Joe Dawes. Here’s the team song and you can, like our master coach, clap and bang something around you!
Other PNG Sporting codes have so much to learn from the Barramundis.