Sport: PNG cricketers train "like Rocky" during Covid-19 break

4:02 pm on 8 April 2020

With international cricket on the back-burner as a result of Covid-19, Papua New Guinea's top players are staying motivated by challenging each other using unique training methods.

The PNG Barramundis have not played a match since sealing qualification for the men's T20 World Cup five months ago, while the PNG Lewas last swung a bat at the women's T20 World Cup qualifiers in September.

All national sporting facilities in PNG were closed three weeks ago as a precautionary measure amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite being unable to access their usual facilities, Barramundis head coach Joe Dawes said most of the players lived in the same village and had continued training together in small groups.

He said the Barramundis and Lewas players had started a Whatsapp group and were posting videos of themselves performing their latest workouts.

"The boys are smashing it out. Just the first lot of messages are coming through Monday for day one of week three in this mess and I've got boys throwing around tyres and car axels and all sorts of bits and pieces off old cars that they've been able to find for weights, and pulling tyres along the ground with rope with their kids sitting in them.

"It's like a montage from a Rocky movie actually - it's been quite entertaining watching them all come through."

Dawes said the players could still train together in small groups of four or five and he was fortunate to have good strength and conditioning staff in PNG who had helped the 33 contracted players keep on top of things.

"A lot of the boys and the majority of the girls live in the big village so there is ovals and netball courts there that they've been using, just doing their running and bits and pieces together," he said.

"We split what little sort of equipment we had up between the groups so they've got some cones and bits and pieces and they've been using those and improvising."

The Australian-born coach will have been back in Brisbane for three weeks today, after Australians were told to return home last month prior to the PNG government declaring a state of emergency.

PNG coach Joe Dawes.

PNG coach Joe Dawes. Photo: Screenshot/ICC

Dawes, who has coached in India, had been largely confined to his house, save a few trips to Bunnings and the dump, and said Australia's Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton - a close friend - told him to get home before the borders closed.

"Pete said get out earlier than that but I tried to get out on the weekend before to beat that 14 day [self-isolation quarantine] thing but I couldn't get a flight so I stayed for an extra three or four days, just to make sure everything was in place before I came back [and] got out on the Wednesday.

"They're looking at limited opening of the borders in Papua New Guinea in two weeks time potentially - that will be for essential people - so hopefully over the next weeks I might be able to get back up and start work."

PNG's top cricketers, including CJ Amini, have been challenging and motivating each other with their home workouts.

PNG's top cricketers, including CJ Amini, have been challenging and motivating each other with their home workouts. Photo: Supplied

Historic T20 World Cup debut up in the air

The PNG Barramundis were set to host the United Arab Emirates and Nepal in ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 in June but that tri-series had been postponed with tentative hopes it could be rescheduled within a couple of months.

Plans to play matches against Hong Kong next month were also shelved because of Covid-19 and the ongoing civil unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Dawes said the national squad were itching to return to competitive action, after almost six months on the sideline, and were just about to ramp up their preparations.

"We had a chat last week with the UAE guys and the ICC (as part of a conference call with associate nations). It's all guesswork at the moment, sadly, but with a view that if things do improve that we were looking to try and host that again in late July/early August.

"To be honest, I don't know how realistic that is but that's sort of a loose plan that we have at this stage and the agreement was we're just going to keep in touch and see where we get to."

PNG are also scheduled to make their debut at the Men's T20 World Cup in Australia in August, after finishing runners up at the qualifying tournament in Dubai last year, but Dawes admitted even that, too, was up in the air.

"I mean hopefully the World Cup goes ahead and the boys can fulfill this dream of going to one and getting to stage two and do some stuff there but to be honest we're just trying to get through April and May and the rest of the year we'll deal with as it comes because once it kicks off it's going to get pretty busy I think trying to catch up on the all the cricket that's been missed out."

So far, Cricket PNG had been able to retain and keep paying all of their staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, with funding from sponsors and the ICC still coming through, although Joe Dawes says they will look at other ways to try and keep costs down during the ongoing global uncertainty.

The first installement of $US250,000 in prizemoney from the ICC was due to be paid in August and would be a welcome addition to the Cricket PNG coffers.

But until then it's back to the home gyms, the makeshift weights and the enduring hard slog as PNG's cricketers wait until they can pad up once again.

The PNG Barramundis celebrate a wicket.

PNG's Barramundis celebrate on their way to qualifying for the T20 World Cup Photo: Twitter/T20 World Cup