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Enoch Maki: A tribute to one of the greatest and longest serving PNG based Athlete

Writes Terence Kapipi : Commentary 

Throughout our short history, starting from when we banded together as a nation heroes rose from the sporting arena, reach their pinnacle, and then immediately fade from national prominence into complete oblivion. Countless athletics have gone up and down this path that it has become an accepted norm as the sun setting in the west. Rugby league the most followed sport in this young nation has its fair share of such champions, their promising careers cut short by varying reasons but few lingered, have persevered and even flourished in this challenging environment to carve their name deep into our record books and hearts; one such athlete is Enoch ‘The Hammer’ Maki.

Enock Maki being tackled by Brisbane Broncos players during a trial match in Port Moresby

A Keltiga man of the Moge Tribe in Mount Hagen, Enoch hails from a hotbed breeding ground of the big and the mighty men for the Kumuls. Western Highlands has been producing giants for as long as Rugby League existed in Papua New Guinea, you would be forgiven for thinking that if Goliath was from here the Kanges are most likely to be his direct descendants. This is a lineage that promises to produce more potent big men going into the future but for now Enoch is without peers, rubbing shoulders with the best the World can offer, coming out of each contest with his head held high.

Growing up Enoch was a keen golfer, a talented one too, he picked up the National amateur junior’s championship early in his teens in 2004. He only plays golf for leisure now, when the Rugby League season ends. Enoch made his debut for Mount Hagen Eagles in 2008 as a budding 18 year-old, in the formerly SP inter-city cup. It would have been a perfect debut season for this Kange Monster if it wasn’t for a storming Mendi Muruks who beat them in the 2008 grand finale.

Having legendary tough blokes like Thomas Daki, Ignatius Duma and Rodney Pora as his role model, Enoch’s sheer size and dominant performances on the football field was making so much noise that it was a matter of when and not if for this young prop forward to break into Papua New Guinea National sides. One of the most humbled rugby league players in PNG, Enoch’s attitude and discipline transformed him into fine forward that in 2012, at the tender age of 22 he was called up into the Prime Ministers XIII side to face the visiting Australians. Taking this opportunity with both hands Enoch has cemented his place in the national setup ever since.

"It was indeed a special feeling for me when I made it to the Prime Ministers XIII side, the best feeling ever," says Enoch, describing the emotions that drove through him when he made his debut in the national colours. Modern Papua New Guinea is society in which one of the highest form of honour you would bring to your family and your country is to play for the Kumuls and Enoch is one the very few to reach the pinnacle of greatness early in his career. He has remained at the top of the pile since.

2013 proved to be fruitful as his Vipers team won the Digicel Cup, ending a long draught for the once mighty Port Moresby side. His form secured Enoch a place in the 2013 Kumuls World Cup in the United Kingdom, a year he remembers as one of his best ever.

Enoch is one of the very few men who have played for the Kumuls with a Bachelor Degree next to their name. "Yes I went to University of Papua New Guinea, and I graduated with a Bachelor in Science majoring in environmental sciences and geography. I started in 2009 and finished in 2014. Due to rugby I messed up some courses and it took a bit longer than normal four years" says Enoch

His list of achievements are many but the top three highlights of his glittering career are,
Winning the Digicel Cup with the Vipers and being selected for the 2013 World Cup in UK, premiership with the hunters in 2017, playing the World Cup in PNG and winning the games especially in Port Moresby are the best moments of his career.

From his large arsenal tried and tested over the course of his lengthy career, Maki perfected a hit-up technique in which he relies heavily on his enormous mass, meeting the defence at an angle with his side to apply maximum pressure on opponents as Kangaroos squad members Matt Prior and Regan Campbell Gillard found out recently, it is devastatingly effective. Whist protecting his body with his forearm, hip, elbow and knees, the chances of opponents getting knocked out cold is high. Close to the try line he is lethal as he uses this formidable system to twist and bust out of tackles, dropping to the try
line like he did against the Broncos during the Hunters trial match earlier this year or offloads to resurrect a dangerous second phase play.

Like a beacon when all other lights go out he shines, Maki is a true master of consistency. One of his most memorable performances came against a NRL talent laden Penrith Panthers NYC side in September of 2017, he formed a one man wrecking crew against a ruthlessly dominant Panthers outfit when the sexier names in the Hunters line-up failed to deliver on the biggest stage of them all, the NRL Grand final day. And on October the 6th 2018, he lived up to his reputation and delivered in spades against an all Kangaroos Australian Prime Ministers XIII forward pack, a remainder to all of what he can do leaving no blemish to his credibility. Enoch’s feats largely unnoticed has resulted in him becoming a highly underrated talent who consistently gets the job done for our representative teams for the better part a decade.

Going into his 11th seasons in top rugby league Maki has had countless specials moments in the game but he ones he holds only a few close the heart. Winning the Digicel Cup with the Vipers in 2013, being selected for the 2013 World Cup in UK, winning a Premiership with the hunters in 2017 and playing the World Cup in PNG, winning the games especially in Port Moresby was the best part of my rugby career.

Maki played top flight Rugby League for more than ten years, a rare feat for a Papua New Guinean based Rugby league player, let alone a rampaging prop forward. He is still as destructive as ever, dishing out carnage in the recent historical home world cup and he continues to thrive in the Hunters colours. Enoch has this uncanny ability to force his way back into representative teams after getting dropped when lesser men find themselves forever out of selection calculations. Big, mobile and powerful one
wonders if he will ever slow down.

Playing in two World Cups, 2013 and 2017, Enoch says, “age is just a number and if his form is up to the standards, we will see him in the next World Cup”. When Queried by Rugby League Romantics about his rare durability at the highest levels, this is what the man said, "To be honest I don’t have a secret for playing that long. I personally feel that I having the right attitude that keeps me going. I don’t want to feel like someone important in any team, and I always push myself to the limit"

Maki’s journey with the hunters hasn’t been a smooth ride. The first two seasons Hunters were hard because of recurring injuries. He rectified the problem by having a knee operation in Brisbane in 2015. Coach Marum kept faith in him and in 2017 and 2018 he re-established himself as the premier prop for Papua New Guinea. His last wish is to win a premiership with PNG Hunters again before the curtains come down on his glittering career.

“My goals or aim is to at least have a helping hand in the development of the game especially in rural areas when I retire”, says The Hammer

He has this one advice for the next generation of sports persons, "Work hard and let your footy do the talking. Be humble and always have a good attitude and stop the ME BIKPLA MANGI attitude", added Maki.

Perhaps we will continue to see him in the next ten years or we won’t but what is certain is that he is one man that will not be taking any backward steps against the power of the Samoans this weekend.

Thank You for your services and the memories, Enoch ‘The Hammer’ Maki. This PNG Nation Salutes you.

Next :

Final PNG LNG Kumuls Team announced to face Samoa

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