Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has publicly declared that Fiji Bati captain Tui Kamikamica was his favourite player at the Pacific Championships in Port Moresby despite the Kumuls 43-16 loss.
Marape revealed his admiration for Kamikamica after the Melbourne Storm forward came up to present the Prime Minister with a Bati jersey at a dinner for players and officials from the Bati, PNG and Cook Islands men’s and women’s teams.
“I didn’t see that coming, to be honest,” Kamakamica told NRL.com
“It’s a surreal feeling for a Prime Minister to notice what you do for a living and to really watch the game. For him to mention my name like he did, it was a really good feeling.”
While PNG star Justin Storm remains Marape’s No.1 player, he and Kamikamica are close friends and lived together when they first moved to Melbourne to play for the Storm.
Kamikamica said it was humbling to learn how highly the PNG Prime Minister regarded him.
“Juz is a pretty well-known icon of PNG,” Kamikamica said.
“Obviously, he’s played for Melbourne Storm and he’s my brother, so when he said that I was one of his favourite players, it was pretty surreal to be honest.”
“He mentioned Justin first, so Justin is still the No.1, but I’m the second one.”
Fiji Bati coach Wise Kativerata revealed that Kamikamica had again caught up with the Prime Minister after the dinner.
“He said I want to let everyone know that I follow the Melbourne Storm and Tui is one of my favourite players, and he even came back to the hotel,” Kativerata said.
“He came running over and shook his hand.”
Parramatta Eels star winger Maika Sivo is also a favourite among PNG’s politicians, with Information and Communications Technology minister Timothy Masiu visiting him and Eels team-mate Waqa Blake in the dressing room after last weekend.
“We spoke about that before we came here. As we all know, they are very, very passionate about rugby league and as soon as we got here on the first day, we noticed that straight away.”
“I can’t put into words what we’ve been experiencing for the last couple of weeks and all those big guys coming to the sheds after the game – the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications – it is such a good feeling.”
Both sides will clash again at 5pm at Santos Stadium in Port Moresby for the Men’s Pacific Bowl on Sunday.