Sport: PNG celebrate back to back AFL International Cup titles

5:18 am on 22 August 2017

Papua New Guinea is celebrating back to back AFL International Cup titles after a nail-biting 29-28 victory over New Zealand in the grand final.

The Mosquitoes trailed 7-12 after the first quarter but the youngest player in the men's competition, Hewago 'Ace' Oea, slotted a goal on the half-time siren to put them in front by one point, a margin they maintained at the ends of the third and fourth quarters.

In a dramatic finish, Barclay Miller hit the post from close range for New Zealand as the Hawks pressed the Mosquitoes defence.

Kataha Siwee had the chance to put the defending champions a goal clear but also hit the post from a favourable position.

That put PNG back in front by the narrowest of margins and, in hindsight, head coach David Lake believed it may have worked in their favour.

"The young fella that ran into the open goal and hit the post he did that in the game against Ireland, which probably cost us the game as well," he said.

"But if he'd have kicked that goal the ball went back to the middle and there would have been a goal in it and for the Kiwis that would have meant an opportunity to get back to the middle of the ground to maybe kicking a point, in reflection, was a good thing because they had to go the full length of the ground".

PNG managed to rise above New Zealand in the AFL International Cup final.

PNG managed to rise above New Zealand in the AFL International Cup final. Photo: AFL Photos

After losing their first match of the tournament, the Mosquitoes won four straight matches but only sneaked into the final match after New Zealand kicked a goal at the death to beat Ireland in the previous round.

David Lake said his players got better as the tournament went on and perhaps the Hawks regret helping them into the final.

"I sort of look at that final (round robin match) and it's almost like Barclay (Miller from New Zealand) should have just kicked it over the boundary line, kicked it out on the full (and accepted a loss to deny PNG a place in the final)," he said.

"And they would have played Ireland again, who were down to 16 fit men - they were really battling to put a side on the field that last day.

"And that would have been their opponent who they really knew rather than the unknown, which was us...I wonder whether they'd have been better off not winning that game".

The Mosquitoes are the first side to win back to back International Cup titles and said hopefully there will be plenty of spinoffs for the game back in PNG.

"You hope from this that companies want to get involved and sponsor the competitions and that the AFL continue to put money into development at the junior level and we continue to create players like young Ace (Hewago 'Ace' Oea)," he said.

That's good money the AFL money needs to be invested in development and the other money, the sponsor money - the corporate dollar - needs to support senior footy.

"I think there's ten years work that was in that side - as I said from 29 to 16 was the spread and the 16 year old played every game and every moment, as did the 29 year old and everything in between.

"We have all the layers of talent now and if we continue to invest heavily in development I think you'll see that the game could grow and some good things will happen around young Ace over the next few weeks, I reckon, and that just helps promote opportunity I think it can grow significantly.

"And it's just about putting money and resource into right places because they're absolutely amazing athletes and they're tough as nails".

Papua New Guinea celebrate winning the 2017 AFL International Cup.

Papua New Guinea celebrate winning the 2017 AFL International Cup. Photo: AFL Photos

The PNG Prime Minister and Minister for Sports, Peter O'Neill, said the Mozzies have made the nation proud with their performance.

"It was a tough match-up of two very good teams and it was very well done by our boys to maintain their focus and win the game," he said.

"As back-to-back champions you have a lot to be proud of, and each of you is an inspiration to the youths of our nation.

"The Mozzies have again made Papua New Guinea proud and carried our flag high for the world to see.

"On behalf of the Government and the people of Papua New Guinea, I extend the nation's congratulations to the players, coaching staff and officials from the PNG Mozzies."

The Prime Minister said the growing popularity of AFL in Papua New Guinea is positive and provides another outlet for the nation's youth to be healthier and participate in team sports.

"I welcome the growing popularity of Aussie Rules in Papua New Guinea - it is a unique game in the world of sports and is another way that Papua New Guineans and Australians can form stronger bonds," he said.

"There is plenty of room for the different codes of football to expand in Papua New Guinea.

"Our people will always have great passion for rugby league, but we are a sports-loving nation and we will watch sports of all codes.

"We saw how popular soccer has become with the FIFA Women's Under 20 World Cup, rugby union also has a growing supporter base, and as world champions once again, we can see AFL gaining more attention".