Culture shock

From culture shock to the big stage: Albert soaks up the moment

PNG powerhouse Elsie Albert is quick to answer when asked what life in Australia is like.

“It’s overwhelming,” says Albert.

“Especially the first time I came, but with good people around me, I feel comfortable and more used to the way of life here, so that’s good.”

Albert arrived at the Papua New Guinea Dragons for her second campaign at the club last year before the pandemic postponed the season, forcing her to make a decision on whether to stay in Australia or return home.

Her first experience in the NRLW was a challenge on and off the pitch, so you wouldn’t have blamed her if she didn’t want to stick around.

The Dragons have never won a game and Albert was learning the Australian way of life alongside his great friend Steph Hancock, who has not been re-signed this season.

After some visa issues and border restrictions last year, it was decided the 25-year-old was best to stay put and use the competition delay to adjust to the way of a part-time rugby player in Australia.

For Albert, who enjoys the simple things of life at home in PNG, it has opened up the opportunity for him to train in an appropriate strength and conditioning environment and learn off-court development skills in a foreign country. .

She is part of the “Gwynnie Gang” – a home for Out of Town Dragons, including Kezie Apps and Madison Bartlett, who have lived and trained together for the past four months.

“Coming this year they have really given me every opportunity to have a strong pre-season and with that under my belt I feel like I have done my bit for the team to bring us to the grand finale,” Albert said.

“The Australian way of life is very different. With us we have small family oriented groups, but when you come here you are on your own. I had a little culture shock.

“I miss my family a lot but I plan to come back after the World Cup if I make the PNG team.

“I help my brothers and sisters with the lunch money. In a way, I also help my parents and relieve them of a load.

“I call them 2-3 times a week, we chat and we FaceTime. They tell me if I don’t have a good game and if I have a good game they like to tell me where I can still improve.

Dragons manager Jamie Soward believes Albert’s status in the game as one of the best strikers only grew after his first NRLW season at the club ahead of Sunday’s NRLW Grand Final.

“I was excited to get my hands on Elsie, first to challenge her to be as fit as possible, but also to educate her on how good she can be,” Soward said.

“We had honest conversations around if you don’t run hard it’s going to hurt the team and hurt you as an individual and what you can do in this competition.

“I think she really appreciated that most football players liked being told what to do and being given a basis and an understanding of what was expected of them.

“I think Elsie really came in for me against Parramatta. It was a tough, wet and windy day and she was up against Simaima Taufa, Kennedy Cherrington and Filomina Hanisi…those girls who were in a big squad and played representative football.

While Albert described Soward’s training methods for his own game as ‘phenomenal’, the Dragons coach said it was all about bringing players to their full potential.

“I take no credit for myself, she is a great role model for women in Papua New Guinea who want to play rugby,” he said.

“We look forward to spending time together ahead of Season Two and potentially moving up to PNG and finding the next 5-6 Elsie Alberts and bringing them into our program.

“I think that would be exciting.”