Moresby school sports newspaper reports: Richard Jones

Reporting school sports activities in Port Moresby and from other Central Province locations was well advanced in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The South Pacific Post and then the daily Post-Courier regularly ran stories and pictures about school competitions in track and field, softball, rugby league, basketball and other disciplines.

I served only a brief period in the education department during my PNG stint, but was quite happy to add the school sports writing duties to my twice-weekly Papuan Rugby League previews and match reports. The primary A schools had regular sports meets and carnivals, I recall.

Posted to Murray Barracks A school in 1969, I was able to file stories about the competitions among the Moresby schools on a semi-regular basis. This drew the ire of the late Jim Tarr who asked in a Letter to the Editor why the achievements of the capital city’s Primary T students were being overlooked.

A few years earlier in 1966 I had entered a team from Sogeri in the standard [or grade] six Papuan Junior Rugby League competition. We used the cumbersome big Leyland bus housed at the adjacent secondary school for transportation. A Sogeri Secondary School team also travelled down to Moresby on Wednesday afternoons for competition games.

Running the touch line was par for the course for the teachers. Dropping the touch flag to the deck at half-time, it was time for the teacher-coach’s pep talk.

Getting back up the “hill” to Sogeri in the evenings was the highpoint of Wednesday excursions. The rugged old Leyland got past Bomana and the Rouna pub areas okay, but the last steep-ish climb on the dirt road around the corner and onto the Sogeri plateau was the killer. We teachers used to relieve the Papuan driver every now and then. The big boys from the Secondary School were asked to disembark on the curve. Woe betide a chalkie who couldn’t engage first gear with his double-clutching routine to inch the old girl over the last little bit of the climb to make sure everyone got home safely.

And of course the details of the matches played at Boroko were also regularly published in the Moresby paper.

In 1970 I was posted to the Amazon Bay region of far eastern Central Province. Abutting the Milne Bay Province, actually.

That September or October the Marshall Lagoon sub-district was set to stage a large athletics carnival with Primary T schools from right around the region invited to send contingents.

I accepted on behalf of the Magarida Primary School. But how were we going to transport the school athletes, teachers and a handful of parents up the coast to Kupiano?  The answer was by sea-going canoe. I vividly remember the huge Motuan lakatois from the Moresby area. But the outboard motor-powered giant which hove into view the day before the competition was set to take place was something else. We made the trip satisfactorily enough, past Abau and then into Marshall Lagoon itself. A treacherous little reach of water where the incoming and outgoing sea tides swirled around and kept everyone’s attention firmly focused.

Especially mine, as I’d spent an anxious 10 minutes in the drink a few years earlier. A teenage paddler had tipped a flimsy craft over with me aboard as we tried to negotiate the lagoon across to an adjacent headland. Eventually a vigilant villager from the place to which we were heading spied two bodies bobbing about and came out in a larger canoe to rescue us.

Anyway, we got the boys and girls and everyone else from Amazon Bay up to the athletics track and our group performed remarkably well.

There was somewhat of an eccentric kiap posted to Kupiano at the time. He had an open top British sports car and used to drive it from his residence, down to the patrol post office, across to Jack McGavern’s trade store and back up the dirt track to the said residence. I doubt if he ever got the car out of second gear! Certainly he would never have needed to engage top gear.

But what I remember most about the sports day—the details of which I typed up and posted off to the Post-Courier, no e-mails or tweets back then—was the trip home. It was a baking, hot day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and as a single man I knew little or nothing about sunscreen protection. I cowered in one huge hollowed-out hull, periodically splashing sea water over a bright red face. The face gradually returned to normal over the next few weeks for which I was grateful. Our wedding day in Melbourne was just a few short months away, in mid-January 1971.

The details of the school athletics carnival were dutifully published by the Post-Courier and life returned to normal at the Magarida Primary T School and patrol post.
Bob Boardman’s technical schoolboys did not compete up at Kupiano, I remember. They were older than their primary school siblings so stayed home at Amazon Bay.

NOTE: Primary T schools used the “Territory” curriculum. Primary A schools, largely for the offspring of expatriates, used an Australian-based curriculum.


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