Off the Wall

The death occurred in Brisbane last night of Sir James Jacobi, the driving force behind the early development of rugby league in Papua New Guinea. He was President of the PNG Rugby League for more than 25 years, was also a Member of the International Rugby League Board.

He also held the distinction of being the first rugby league official in the world - and I suspect still the only - to be knighted for his service to rugby league. He was knighted by the PNG Government in 1991 and had earlier been awarded the OBE.

He became first President of the PNG Rugby League in 1964 when the then ARL and NSWRL President, Bill Buckley, asked him to take the reins of the game in pre-independence Papua New Guinea. At the time he was developing the largest medical practice in PNG - which was a very happy coincide for rugby league players for the next 30 years as they were never charged for visits to his surgery!

During his time as President, PNG became a Member of the International Rugby League Board and played regular rest matches against the Kangaroos, Kiwis, England and French nation teams. His excellent personal association with administrators in Australia such as Kevin Humphreys, Ken Arthurson, Ron McAuliffe and Tom Bellew helped give the game in PNG international status, and secured several tours of PNG by the Kangaroos.

The game prospered under his leadership and cemented its place as the national sport of Papua New Guinea. His enormous range of business, political and community contacts were regularly