Okul shares UK experience

Papua New Guinea rugby league big names like John Okul and Stanly Gene who made waves in the English league have now created a pathway for more Papua New Guineans to follow in their footsteps.

Former Highlands Zone representative and PNG International John Okul who now lives in the UK, is back in the country, as part of the visiting Hull Kingston Rovers Club officials, who arrived in Port Moresby recently for the launch of the groundbreaking partnership between the Port Moresby Vipers and the Hull Kingston Rovers Rugby League Academy pathway.

Okul made his international debut for the PNG Kumuls in 1994 and played in another three test matches including two at the 1995 Ruby League World Cup in England. Following the World Cup Okul along with teammate Gene were signed by Hull Kingston Rovers and are now club legends.

Since signing up with the UK club in 1996 John Okul now calls Hull his home away from home after almost 28 years.

Before becoming a Kumul, Okul played for the foundation Morobe franchise, Lae Bombers and the Highlands zone between 1991 and 1994.

While playing in the Super League Okul continued to represent the Kumuls on several occasions. He also represented PNG at the Super League World Nines in Fiji.

At the peak of his career, he played for Hull KR between 1996 and 1998. After he was hampered by injury Okul had a stint with the Doncaster Dragons and Barrow Raiders. In 2002 and 2003 he played for West Hull in the BARLA National Conference League’s Premier Division.

Okul is back in the country this time, as part of the Hull Kington Rovers team, that officiated the milestone partnership agreement with the Port Moresby Vipers Academy program, which coincided with the Vipers season launch Thursday night, April 11 at the Sir Hubert Murray stadium.

Okul spared a few minutes to share his amazing rugby league journey, his passion for the game, and how he's embracing the Western culture compared to the PNG culture.

Okul recalls the amount of communication and dialogue that took place between them and Hull after the 1995 World Cup

“ After 95 World Cup long England ol come askim mipla ..mipla exchangim ol information na mipla come back gen long PNG ..96 mipla go play super nines long Fiji..em nau na tuple Board of Directors flew from England to Fiji then mipla signim contract. That was February 96 and then March of 96 mitupla Stanly i fly igo long England.”

While the rest is history, Okul admitted transiting to a new culture and the cold climate was a real challenge let alone missing family back in PNG.

“Before Every year mitupla Stanley save go come..go stret lo village then go back long England ..igo nau mipla kamap asples long England now”

Okul, Gene and Makali Aizue have made a big impact in the club’s history as cult heroes with huge followings that have contributed immensely to the success of this iconic English club. He said fans there are just as crazy as Papua New Guineans about their rugby.

Okul said English fans love how we Papua New Guineans play because we play the game hard and physically.

“That’s what the English supporters like..because you give everything..they want to see you give it everything. Ino half-hearted kain olsem. And that’s what we do. Play hard, run hard, tackle hard but clean game and that's what people like .so we have to give it to them week in week out “

When asked about the new partnership now forged between Hull KR Club and the Port Moresby Vipers Okul expressed so much satisfaction and joy saying he and Gene’s influence at the club also played a big part. This is the start of a new era and junior pathway not only for the Vipers but for the PNG rugby league as a whole.

Loop Author