16 Jan Amelia Kuk: Leading the field in women’s rugby league in Australia and PNG
Story by Michael Lu
For many Papua New Guinea (PNG) women, there’s cultural stigma against entering rugby professionally.
But there are those willing to challenge the norm.
Breaking from the mould, Amelia Kuk, one of the first PNG women to represent her country in national rugby union, also hopes to act as a role model for all women in sport.
“We come from a country where everyone looks after the males, it goes back to the cultural stuff where if you’re born a female in the family you’re not really worth anything.” she explained.
I’ve heard stories from some PNG girls, when they were playing in the park people would walk around the field and get laughed at with bottles thrown at them, and this was coming from one of the captains of the world cup.
“To see the crowd’s reaction and getting a standing ovation from everyone around in PNG after all the games we played, the exposure’s getting really good and everyone’s starting to respect the women now.”
Growing up in Mount Hagen PNG, Kuk moved to South Africa where her dad worked as a miner before bouncing around Australia, moving from the arid Western Australian outback to Brisbane, where she now calls home.
“I love where I come from, and when I was 17-years-old, I made my debut for the Rugby Women’s 7’s team for PNG, and when I had the opportunity to represent my country I jumped at it because I always like to represent my country with pride,” she explained.
Naturally, Kuk’s cultural identities clashed as she tried to figure out whether to play for Australia or PNG.
“I realised that because I put on the PNG jersey, I couldn’t swap over and make the Australian side, so I had made the Australian side for the Wallaroos and because of rugby rules and regulations, I couldn’t play for another country,” she said.
“I decided to stop playing union because I didn’t see a future, and I didn’t want to be stuck playing club footy, and then I decided to make the switch to rugby league in 2016.
I was lucky enough to play for Souths-Logan which is such a great club and it has produced so many legends in the women’s game, I think I was in the right place at the right time.
From playing rugby to nursing in the ward, Kuk, who’s now a registered nurse, hopes to find a balance away from tackling opponents on the field.
“2017 was when I made my debut for both PNG and Australian rugby league, while trying to do all my practicals, assignments and placements,” she said.
I got there in the end, I’m glad everything went well and I was able to fulfil my footy career as well as graduate with my Bachelor’s degree and also earning in a full-time job.
Kuk now works at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and her shifts accommodate to her rigorous training schedule.
Follow Amelia on Facebook HERE to stay up-to-date on her rugby league journey.