PNG Mosquitoes crowned AFL World Champions

After three years of stewing over their grand final loss to Ireland in the last International Cup three years ago, the MVIL Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes finally tasted the success they’d been so hungry for in a thrilling finish at the Melbourne cricket ground on Saturday.

The Mosquitoes trailed Ireland at every break, but grabbed the lead halfway through the final term to clinch the 2014 International Cup title 6.9 (45) to 6.6 (42). From the opening bounce it appeared as though the bigger-bodied Irish were going to push around the pint-sized Mosquitoes, but ultimately it was the pace, athleticism and raw talent of PNG that prevailed.

The odds were against PNG from the outset with their most important player and the tournament’s leading goal kicker, Amua Pirika, restricted by a knee injury he sustained in the semi-final, which sidelined him in the second half.

With his knee heavily bandaged, Pirika hobbled around the forward line unable to make an impact, while captain John James Lavai, who plays for Aspley in the NEAFL, was hampered by a hamstring injury. Three-points down at three-quarter time, coach David Lake told his players to "shut their eyes and dare to dream".

This motivated the PNG boys to tighten their boot laces and they did exactly that. In the dying minutes of the game, the crowd favorites surged forward, ruckman John Ikupu flew high to drag in a huge pack mark and kick a goal from the top of the goal square to give the Mosquitoes the lead for the first time.

Minutes later, tenacious midfielder Gideon Simon, who spent time on Richmond’s rookie list, followed up with another goal to give PNG a nine-point lead, and the match. Wild celebrations followed as the siren sounded.

Water bottles were thrown high into the air and jumpers were ripped off as the PNG boys paraded around the MCG. Ikupu was handed the medal for best on ground with livewire Brendan Beno unlucky to miss out after also playing a terrific match. The match caps an action-packed 14 days of competition which saw 25 teams from 18 nations take-part in both men’s and women’s divisions.

ONE PNG/Post Courier

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