EDWIN Ipape went to Hela and back as he tackles tribal conflicts after helping Leigh become one of Super League’s top dogs.
Challenge Cup success at Wembley with the Leopards and making the play-offs in his first top flight season was one thing but finding himself in places with no running water or electricity when he went back to Papua New Guinea was just as important.
And as well as being a mentor to many young players in a country where the 13-a-side code is the national sport, he is having an impact away from the pitch – helping schools by donating books or computers.
To the man from Hela province, that ranks alongside performing for club and country as he knows many people are affected by inter-tribal warfare.
Ipape, part of PNG’s success in the Pacific Bowl competition, even dips into his own pocket to help as he revealed: “I was involved with some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to present things to schools and help people in the remote areas get a quality education.
“That was just by giving them simple things like used books or, where they could be used, desktop computers.
“And if I was to take you to the most remote areas, there’d be no electricity, no water supply – things that are taken for granted here. Even though they’re literally on tap, I don’t.
“One of my brothers started an NGO and delivers books. When I was back there, he asked me to come and show my face.
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“They really appreciated the support but we need more people to help those who are suffering back home, many of them in silence.
“There are schools that don’t have Wi-Fi or internet access. It’s tough and was an eye opener for me to go back and see that people are struggling. That really humbled me.
“I’ve been involved with organisations but individually, I’ve always helped people having struggles or going through tough times, to help or comfort them in ways I can.
“I went for a long drive back up to Hela and I’m fortunate enough to be the ambassador for peace there.
“There’s a lot of war and tribal fighting going on – it used to be tribe v tribe but now there are a lot more conflicts between family members.
“It’s not looking good at the minute but I hope the messages have been received.”
As well as his off-field support, hooker Ipape capped a superb 2023 with a try as Papua New Guinea showed they should be a serious Test nation by defeating Fiji in the Bowl final.
This Autumn should see Samoa tour England, like Tonga last year, but talks are ongoing after the Pacific islanders said they would not.
If those fail, the 24-year-old says the Kumuls are waiting for the nod.
He added: “I’m praying Samoa don’t come!
“Then we can play England. They beat us in the World Cup quarter finals and that hurts me to this day.
“I’d love to play England and get one back on them and there are more PNG players over here – I hope Samoa don’t come.”