In June 2017 I trekked the Kokoda Trail with Australian trekking company Adventure Kokoda.
Prior to leaving I asked Titans official Anthony Laffranchi if I could possibly get 2 or 3 signed Titans football items to give to the PNG porters who would guide us over the trail.
Papuan New Guineans are fanatical rugby league fans.
To my amazement Anthony was able to give me a full set of Titans jumpers and shorts. One jumper was signed by the current coach and the 2017 players group which added to its appeal.
Our group of trekkers arrived on 12 June 2017 and the jumpers and shorts were distributed to the 18 porters on that day. They immediately folded them up in waterproof plastic and secured them in their packs. The gear was treated as prized items akin to special formal clothing that was to be kept from getting dirty and kept secure.
I asked the Head Native Porter (Knoxi, a former rugby league centre) if I could get some photos (of the porters in their gear) which I intended to pass to the Titans. He suggested a photo shoot at the Isurava War Memorial which is located on the trail about 1 days trekking from the town of Kokoda. The Isurava Memorial is a beautiful feature which is kept in immaculate condition by the local villages. The Battle for Isurava is a significant element in the history of the Kokoda campaign.
The Isurava Memorial has 4 large polished granite tablets (you will see the tablets in the photos) each with just one word engraved upon it. The four words are: COURAGE, ENDURANCE, MATESHIP and SACRIFICE. These words epitomise the characteristics of the Australian soldiers in the time of war. It is impossible to think these words would not have great relevance to rugby league football players when playing football.
We arrived at Isurava on Day 8 of our trek and the porters cleaned themselves up, climbed into the Titans gear and paraded/posed for us.
The pride and happiness of the porters in their Titans gear was obvious to all. These incredible people are natural bushmen who are initially rather shy but when the ice is broken they are happy, humorous and very friendly. The Titans have certainly picked up 18 strong friends as a result of the club’s generosity. All the porters went to some effort to ensure that I pass on their gratitude and thanks which I now do.
I would also like to thank the Titans for the generosity. It was a gift of considerable diplomatic value for Australia, Rugby League and the Titans NRL Football Club.