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Les Fraser was the guest coach/umpire for 1986. His wife Robyn and daughters, Fiona and Stacey, accompanied him. The Lae and Markham Clubs hosted them, while Les coached their players. Barb drove them up to Dumpu, for a practice with the Ramu Club. They then progressed to Goroka and back to Nadzab for the Nationals, at which Goroka and Markham Valley each had five teams, Lae three and Ramu two. Markham and Lae included a Junior team each.
The Markham Valley Club hosted the National Titles. Founded in late 1982 by Tony Beirne, John Harsant and Trevor Kennedy, it shares the Nadzab fields with the Lae Club. Sixty per cent of its players are Papua New Guineans, mostly stockmen from the nearby catttle properties. In the three years they have been playing, they had won the Junior Grade each year, and the B and C Grades once. In 1985, the A Grade were narrowly defeated by Goroka 13 - 11.
In the play-offs, Markham defeated Ramu 1, which in turn beat Lae 1. Ramu 1 (Kipas, Osifa, Lucas 2, Kimao, Mato and Waubi) won the B Grade from Goroka 2. Goroka won the A Grade from Markham Valley. Unfortunately, Lae 1 was left out of the finals in the middle. Markham 2 won the C Grade from Goroka 3 and Goroka 5, led by Nicole Leahy, won the D Grade from Lae 2. Kipas was the Best Player; Aitap won the Best and Fairest. Bruce Duffield's Shag was Horse of the Year, Arthur Jones' Emma horse of the Carnival and Heather Atherton's Cheeky local bred Horse of the Carnival.
It had been decided that a representative of each Club should hand in a vote for the best three horses, in order, playing at each carnival. The result of these votes would denote the Horse of the Year, which would have played several times during the year. Sometimes the Horse of the National Titles may only have appeared a couple of times during the year. The plan was better in theory than practice. Clubs tended to vote for horses in their own Club, and not all votes were received. The handicapping had a short life.
Sir Bruce Jephcott's tragic death in July 1987, following six weeks in Royal Brisbane Hospital, after a vehicle accident on the Ramu road, was a shock to all PNG Polocrosse Clubs. Many of the players helped the Jephcott family well beyond the call of duty or friendship. It was much appreciated by the family. There was a carnival at Nadzab on 11th July, the day Bruce died. It was abandoned and Mike Bromley and Tony Beirne flew south with Grant.
Some other of the eleven carnivals, ambitiously planned, were canceled or curtailed in the early part of the year. The Ramu Club was suddenly revived by Dan Leahy (who had played a season for Ramu previously), Mike Bromley, Merv Mangan and Bruce Duffield deciding to play for Ramu. Kipas and Grant made up the team.
There was a carnival at Nadzab on 24th August and another in Goroka on September 12th. Ramu won the A and C grades at both carnivals. John Lawson, who had battled on managing Dumpu through the time we were in Brisbane with Bruce, was the best C grade player. He later took a job in Goroka and played there. Grant did not go to Goroka, holding the "fort" at Dumpu with Barb, while those who had not been able to leave before, enjoyed a weekend away.
A Buradoo team, guests of the Goroka Club played in Goroka and came to Dumpu for a carnival the next weekend. Everyone helped with the food and organization at Dumpu. An A and B Grade knockout to ascertain the grading, also the B Grade played some matches in the C and D grade section to give all teams some variety of play. The visiting Buradoo players were defeated by Goroka and Ramu. The latter played the A Grade final, equal for the first two chukkas, no score in the third and Grant got five goals in the fourth. The revival of Ramu continued down the line, Ramu 2 winning the B grade from Goroka 2, and Ramu 3 defeated MV2. Lae won the D Grade from Ramu 4.
The National Titles at Goroka proved even more exciting, with twelve teams participating; four from each of Ramu and Markham Valley, three from Goroka and one from Lae. Ramu's boost in player numbers in the lower grade came from a larger number of players from Leron and Gusap. This was to continue as the A and B grades fluctuated.
In 1987 the "new" Ramu A grade was strong. On the first day it defeated Goroka 1, but so did MV 1. In the final on Sunday MV won the A Grade, and broke the hold Ramu and Goroka had had on the A.L.Rose Trophy for fourteen years. The first section went down from the pressure of a fast scoring James Launder, whom Merv on a strange horse and Dan Leahy could not control. Grant and Keepas Kamare battled for goal honours in the second section, with Kipas and Mike strongly supporting Grant. He missed by one goal to catch up. MV players, Trevor Kennedy won a well deserved award as best No2, and Michael Beirne as best No.3. Grant Jephcott was awarded the best No.1 and the Best player overall, while MV's James Launder won the Best and Fairest. Horse of the Year was Rose Palm's Lady, and horse of the carnival was Michael Beirne's Cluffy. Goroka 2 won the B Grade from MV2, and Ramu had to be content with the C and D Grades.
(Editor's note - In my diary, 4/10/87- in Grant's writing "We lost the polocrosse against MV! No wonder Mum forgot to fill in this page!!!" It was not the only time I forgot to write up the diary!) The Ramu team vowed to play together in 1988 to avenge their defeat.
1987 Winners - Markham Valley
Trevor Kennedy, Tony Beirne, Michael Beirne, James Launder, Keepas Kamare