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How discarded Group Six referees shirts saved the day in a PNG village

The pink shirts worn by the men in the two front rows in this photo do look familiar, especially if you’re in to rugby league.

Yes, indeed, they are referees tops, but in the photo they are worn by a group of people living in Papua New Guinea, a country that’s crazy about the game.

How the referees shirts ended up in PNG is a story itself.

Ray Dwyer, the treasurer of the Group 6 Referees Association says that in 2017 there was a change of sponsors, which meant new shirts were needed to be provided for the use of the local whistle blowers.

He says the new strip was supplied free of charge, courtesy of the sponsors, but there was one condition:  referees returned to old strip after getting the new kit.

“In 2018 the old strip was collected, washed and folded, then jerseys, polos and shorts were given to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints to distribute in Pacific island communities in 2019,’’ Dwyer said.

At the same time a small community in Papua New Guinea was having family disputes which had become serious.

The community had a rugby league team so it was decided that the Group 6 referee jerseys would be offered to the community team as a gift to quell the disputes and protect the community mission.

Apparently this did the trick and united the community.

“The Group 6 referee jerseys brought the families together as a team and they even attended church on Sunday together as a team,’’ Dwyer said.

“The power of rugby league and the appreciation of a gift to the people is amazing.

“The members of Group 6 referees know the respect for their strip will remain strong,’’ he said.

When you think of all the negative rugby league stories, it makes a change to hear of one as positive as this one.

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