By Godwin Eki – EMTV Sports, Port Moresby
For the first time, critics were proven wrong, after 21-year-old Jonathan Ila, from Lae, a wheelchair bound coach, successfully led the National Women’s AFL team, Flames, to the International Cup Title in Melbourne last year. His presence in Melbourne drew a lot of attention from the International AFL Community. Known as the ‘Wheelchair man’, 21-year-old Jonathan Ila, accompanied the National Women’s AFL Team to Melbourne, last year, to become the first person with a Disability to Coach a team at a higher level.
Jonathan’s participation as a National Coach at the International Cup Title, earned him a spot in this year SP Sports Awards as nominee in the Official of the Year Category.
Senior AFLPNG Operations Manager, Rex Leka, commended Jonathan for his nomination. He thanked Jonathan’s family for being there for him and making his dreams come true. He says while it seems unreal, for anyone with Jonathan’s condition, it is overwhelming to see how far he has come. The 21-year old will be up against some big names with extensive international exposure; all vying for ‘Official of the Year‘ awards.
Some of these big names include Hunters Coach Michael Marum and cricket umpire Alu Kapa. Coach Marum who led the SP PNG Hunters to victory in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup in Brisbane last year, is also a nominee for the ‘Official of the Year’ award.
Alu Kapa is the third nominee in the category. Kapa who stood his first One Day International (ODI) in the match between the Hebou PNG Barramundis and Scotland during the 2015-2017 ICCC World Cricket League Championships last year, is the second PNG umpire to officiate in ODI’s following in the footsteps of Lakani Oala.