Tui Kamikamica was overwhelmed after PNG Prime Minister James Marape publicly declared that the Fiji captain was his favourite player at the Pacific Championships in Port Moresby.
Marape revealed his admiration for Kamikamica after the Storm forward came up to the stage to present him with a Fiji jersey at a dinner for players and officials from the Bati and the PNG and Cook Islands men’s and women’s teams.
“I didn’t see that coming, to be honest,” Kamakamica said. “It’s a surreal feeling for a Prime Minister to notice what you do for a living and to really watch the game.
“For him to mention my name like he did, it was a really good feeling.”
Storm team-mate Justin Olam remains Marape’s No.1 player, but the Kumuls centre has taken no part in the Pacific Championships due to a knee injury that troubled him at the back end of the season.
Olam and Kamikamica are close friends and lived together when they first moved to Melbourne to play for the Storm, so he said it was humbling to learn how highly the PNG Prime Minister regarded him.
“Juz is a pretty well-known icon of PNG,” Kamikamica said. “Obviously, he’s played for Melbourne Storm and he’s my brother, so when he said that I was one of his favourite players, it was pretty surreal to be honest.
“He mentioned Justin first, so Justin is still the No.1, but I’m the second one.”
Kamikamica hugged the Prime Minister after thanking him for the hospitality the Fiji players had received in PNG and presenting him with the Bati jersey.
Fiji coach Wise Kativerata revealed that Kamikamica had again caught up with the Prime Minister after the dinner.
“He said I want to let everyone know that I follow the Melbourne Storm and Tui is one of my favourite players, and he even came back to the hotel,” Kativerata said. “He came running over and shook his hand.”
The Bati have been taken aback by how popular they are in Papua New Guinea, with members of the media posing for photos with Kamikamica after training at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium ahead of Sunday’s Pacific Bowl final against PNG.
Star winger Maika Sivo is virtually unable to go anywhere in public without being mobbed.
Sivo is also a favourite among PNG’s politicians, with Information and Communications Technology Minister Timothy Masiu visiting him and Eels team-mate Waqa Blake in the dressing room after last weekend’s 43-16 defeat of the Kumuls.
“We spoke about that before we came here,” Kamikamica said. “As we all know, they are very, very passionate about rugby league and as soon as we got here on the first day, we just not noticed that straight away.
“I can’t put into words what we’ve been experiencing for the last couple of weeks and all those big guys coming to the sheds after the game – the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications – it is such a good feeling.”