Sharks honouring Kokoda with challenge match in Canberra

For the third year in succession, the Sharks will play in a specially-designed Kokoda jersey in their annual Kokoda Challenge match against the Raiders in continuing their backing of the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF) and in recognition of those who fought and sacrificed in Papua New Guinea during World War II.

The jersey, which features an image of Australian troops looking across the Owen Stanley Range on the Kokoda Track is just one aspect of the jersey. The jersey also has the four values of leadership which were forged on the Kokoda Track - Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice:

A group representing the foundation was hosted at Sharks headquarters earlier this week.

Led by KTF CEO Genevieve Nelson, eight PNG students received a tour of the Sharks facilities, meeting and interacting with the NRL playing group, with Captain Paul Gallen proving popular.

Visiting the Sharks was a part of an Australian leadership exchange which will see the delegation visit Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane over the next two weeks.

Dr Nelson from KTF was appreciative to be given the opportunity to drop by the Sharks home base, while explaining the purpose of the Australian trip.

“The Archer Leaders represent our hope for the future and the next generation of leaders for Papua New Guinea,” Dr Nelson said. “The exchange program connects them with leaders from all walks of life – corporate, government and not-for-profit and explores challenging social issues facing both our countries.

“We are so thrilled to have had the opportunity for our Archer Leaders to meet our ambassadors, the Cronulla Sharks, who are considered heroes back home in PNG.” 

The Kokoda Jersey and annual challenge match with Canberra is a continuation of the relationship formed between the Sharks and KTF, following on from when a group of players and staff from the club walked the track in October of 2017, installing solar lighting to extremely grateful villages along the way.

The jersey is in recognition of the diggers who fought on the Kokoda Track in 1942 and the PNG Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who supported and protected them, in the military and in the infamous World War II campaign.

In all 25 Companies and Battalions were involved in the Kokoda campaign, which took place from July to November of 1942. When all was said and done, 600 Australians were killed and 1600 wounded. The Japanese had more than 10,000 fatalities.

Jayden Brailey and Kyle Flanagan were members of the Sharks group to walk the track in 2017, later describing the experience to be inspirational and rewarding.

The Sharks Kokoda jersey is available for purchase as a special keepsake for Sharks members and fans, while a set of match-worn and signed Kokoda jerseys will be auctioned following the game on later tonight.

The jersey also features the Australian and PNG flags and the KTF logo

The Sharks thank the Canberra Raiders for their on-going support in continuing the tradition and acknowledging the Kokoda Challenge match, which has been contested between the two clubs since 2017.

For more on KTF’s work in keeping the spirit of Kokoda alive in PNG, go to https://www.ktf.ngo/