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One To Watch; University Duel Code Prodigy Aims High

By Nathan WOTI     |      SportsTok Magazine | Issue #96,  AUGUST 2021

Greatness is not easily found. Like diamonds, crushed and buried deep below the earth’s surface, a great talent is something you don't get to see every day.
In the University of Papua New Guinea, a 19 year old is turning heads, and leaving her peers in disbelief of her talent in both the game of basketball and in rugby league.
With the dream to represent her country in sports and education, Joan Kolo, a second year political science student at the University of PNG is, as one might say, “a once in a generation talent".  
The first time I noticed Joan’s incredible gift in rugby league was at the University of Papua New Guinea Vice Chancellor’s Oval in Port Moresby. Her team would play in the next match of the women’s competition. She looked relaxed with her headphone on while carried away dancing to the music playing in her phone. Something about her vibe and the way her peers on the field reacted toward her made me curious as to what she was up to. Little did I know, Joan had recently become a popular student on campus. And for a good reason.

After spending a few minutes on the sideline and just when i was about leave the field I was about to leave the field, they announced the women’s rugby league matches to kick off. When I turned to look for Joan, she had gone. Five minutes into the game and the crowds started cheering her name. Some of her friends on the sideline yelled on top of their lungs, calling her name. I ran to the sideline to get a glimpse of her, and just like a NASCAR, Joan bolstered down the sideline all the way to her opponents’ try line to score her team’s first try. I turned around and saw everyone shaking their heads in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. Joan probably ran a hundred kilometer per hour past us to score the opening try for her team. She showed incredible pace, strength and stamina. That confirmed what I first thought when I saw Joan earlier before the game.
SportsTok Magazine caught with the 19 year old duel coder straight after the game and asked her what made her such a gifted athlete, and her what were her goals in sport of rugby league how she manages to take part in sports and school at the same time.
At the age of 5-6 years old, Joan was already developing the habit of playing sports with her siblings and parents. As she got much older she started playing basketball, soccer, volleyball, and rugby touch with her childhood friends.
“I played every sport that I could get my hands on when I was a kid", Joan said. "But for me basketball is still my favorite".
“I love basketball because it always inspire me in teamwork, helps me to be unselfish, it improves my communication skills on and off the court and other social skills as well”.
However, while basketball remains the sport that she sees herself having a career in in the long run, Joan's incredible rugby league skills has been an highlight in the University of PNG Rugby League competition. Even the university rugby league president Wayne Wama said Joan has the PNG Orchid's DNA in her and he wouldn't be surprise if she gets picked any time soon. "Joan has been the most outstanding player last year and this year in the UPNG rugby league competition", Wama said. "She is a very good rugby league player. It is just her second season playing in the UPNGRFL women's competition and she is what everyone is talking about", the UPNG Rugby League president said.   


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But to Joan rugby league wasn’t on her radar. When she got accepted to study at the premier university of the Pacific, the University of PNG in 2020, Joan joined the basketball association at the university. But seeing what she could do on the basketball court, her friends persuaded her to try out rugby league.
With the inclusion of UPNG Women’s Rugby league, it made it possible for girls at the university to participate in the rugby league competition in the university. After seeing her athletic ability on the basketball court, Joan's friends made a deal that she would play only two games and if she does not want to continue after that she can concentrate on playing basketball. Not to disappoint her friends, Joan
joined the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) Crows. She started on the wings at first but seeing the athletic ability she had and foresight in linking up players plus the ability to catch high balls, her head coach moved her to the fullback role.   

At first she was shy and did not show much of what she can do, but as the game continued the 19 year old Political Science student really took off. Especially in this season.

In just two season playing in the university competition, Joan is already becoming a popular name in the university campus because of the way she plays on the field.
She has the potential to go all the way to the national representative level but she says she still has more to learn.
When asked if she had any thought of putting on the red, black, white and gold jumper anytime in the future, Joan said "It will be a dream come through but I am not ready". She said she would try to continue improve on her own game while putting her hand up for selection if the PNG Rugby Football League and national women's management would want to give her a try.
“I am not sure if I’m there yet", she said.

"I’d like to test myself and see how far I can go in both basketball and rugby league. But I am available if they [the PNGRFL] are interested to scout me, because I would love to learn as much from other senior players and get more experience first”, the 19 year old said.
“I still have a lot more work to put in to prove myself”, she added.
As humble as she may sound, Joan is a star ready to shine. With the women's rugby league world cup postponed to next year due to the global covid19 pandemic, it gives Joan enough time to make her way into the squad. Her incredible speed, power, and stamina is what the Oil Search Orchids need at the moment.    
She says her dream is to one day represent PNG through sport and also in education. But to get there she needs to balance herself between sport and education.  
“I want to represent my country sometime in the future either in sports or education. To get there I need to balance myself in the activities that I am doing or attending so that I stay focus on the road that I am going", the UPNG Political Science student said.
“I represent UPNG in basketball in the Pom [Port Moresby] Basketball Association as well as my school, School of Humanities in rugby league, and the hours of trainings every week it’s hectic. But that has helped me to balance my time and it has motivated me to finish my school work on time as well”, Joan said when asked how she balances her school work and sport.
The university rugby league star said that winning trophies or being recognized is not what she want to achieve in sport. She joined sports to meet friends and socialize in school. But because of her natural talent and athletic ability had put her on the spotlight.
“I love sport”, she said.
“To be part of a team and meeting new friends is probably the two things that I like that is why I joined the basketball and rugby league clubs on campus”.
Apart from just participating in sports, Joan says she sees the importance of why sports can be an avenue where more advocacy regarding women and girls as well as gender equality awareness can be done. She hopes that in the long run she can be able to advocate equal participation for both men and women in the future. At just 19 years of age, she has a huge future in rugby league and in basketball. Whichever path Joan chooses to further her career in, she'll go all the way to the top.

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