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By Kylie Knight – Moreton Daily

The SP PNG Hunters’ chairman Stan Joyce is hoping his side will win back the cup bearing his name, when they face the Dolphins at Moreton Daily Stadium this weekend.

Joyce is adamant his loyalties won’t be tested on May 26, when his club plays the team based in the place he and wife Vangie now call home – the Redcliffe peninsula.

“I’m sure the best team will win, which will be us,” he says, with a smile.

“I’m hoping this weekend they will get it back for us because the last two times the Dolphins have won it. It’s about time we had it.”

The Cup’s history goes back more than 10 years ago, when the Hunters played their first game in the Intrust Super Cup against the Dolphins at Redcliffe.

“Against all expectations and odds, our boys pulled it off and won the game quite convincingly from 20 points behind. It was seen as a good omen that they were playing in my backyard, so to speak,” Joyce says

“They said, we’ll call it the Stan Joyce Cup because it was the first game played by the SP PNG Hunters in Intrust Super Cup. I’m quite proud to have something like that. I’m very humbled by it.”

It was recognition of his contribution to the Hunters and rugby league in Papua New Guinea.

40-year connection

It started about 40 years ago, when Joyce moved to PNG for work.

“As a young man, I took off to Papua New Guinea selling Twisties (chips),” he recalls.

“My boss down here told me, ‘listen young fella, I don’t think there’s much of a future for you but if you go up to Port Moresby and work you never know what might happen. There’s a plane leaving on Saturday morning, so be on it’.

“Off I went … that was some time ago.”

He proved his former boss wrong, going on to work for South Pacific Brewing in 1995 in the marketing department before being appointed general manager and managing director in 2007. He remained in the role until his retirement at the end of 2019.

Throughout his working life, he helped grow rugby league in PNG and had a hand in launching the Inter City Cup (the first nationwide competition in the country), which is still going after 30 years.

He’s been impressed by the Dolphins’ growth, particularly in the past decade.

“I think what’s been done by Bob (Jones) and the team here at Redcliffe is just fantastic. I mean, look at the stadium it’s a wonderful place for the community to come to,” Joyce says.

“My loyalties are not tested when it comes to the NRL, if we (Redcliffe) get in there. I’ll be backing the Dolphins. You wouldn’t do anything else.

“It’s what rugby league’s all about and I think you can hold it up as an example. We’ve got a beautiful stadium in Moresby, it’s pretty special but rugby league is not just played in one town or one city. It’s played all over the country. What’s been done here over a period of time, holds up a sustainable and accessible model to many, many communities.

“It’s multi-purpose as well – the A-League plays here – that’s also an example of how it can operate.”

Watching Dolphins closely

Joyce say the Dolphins’ model is one his club can learn from as it develops players and the game in PNG, with big goals for the future.

“Rugby league in Papua New Guinea is a religion. It’s the national sport and people live and breathe it. It’s passionate,” he says.

“We hope that experience that they (the players) get, they’ll all go back to PNG as grade level one coaches of the game. They will be able to teach the game properly, not just passionately, and intelligently. That can only help contribute to the overall goal which is to one day have a team in the NRL. It’s a big mission.”

In the meantime, the club’s Intrust Super Cup side is based at Raby Bay for the season – away from family and friends during a global pandemic.

“We got here literally three weeks before the season started. We were delayed because of the COVID outbreaks, so it’s been against all odds,” Joyce says.

“I would particularly like to thank the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and also the QRL. By working in partnership with them, we were able to make it happen. We’ve had great support through the gaming board, the Prime Minister, the brewery and our sponsors. They’re all right behind us.

“We spoke to everyone before we came down. I remember that meeting we said, ‘boys if you come down with us you can’t go back home.

Joyce says Papua New Guineans have particularly tight family connections and, while they have been using zoom and other ways to connect, it’s not the same.

“They’ve got to be a bit homesick. You’ve got a group of young men living away from home. Nellie, our wellness manager, she does a fantastic job.”

Right now, their focus is on winning the Stan Joyce Cup, when they play the Dolphins at Moreton Daily Stadium on May 26. The Dolphins are just as determined and will head into the game on the back of two wins in a row. Kick-off is 6pm. Grab your tickets at the gate.

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