Israel Eliab has had to learn to be patient. The Papua New Guinea international signed for London Broncos in September but had a long wait while his visa application was being processed and finally flew into Britain three weeks ago. Then he picked up a hamstring strain in an early training session, so is still waiting to make his first appearance for the Broncos.
Just making the decision to fly across the world to further his Rugby League career was a massive step for the 25-year-old stand-off. He was born and raised in the small town of Kokopo in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain Province.
Israel began his career with Rabaul Gurias in the domestic competition before joining the Port Moresby Vipers with whom he won a Premiership title in 2013. He moved to the Papua New Guinea Hunters and captained them in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup competition.
Israel played for PNG in the 2013 World Cup and captained the Papua New Guinea in the Nines at the 2015 Pacific Games.
Ealing, in west London is a long way from Papua New Guinea, so why did he decide to come halfway around the world to play Rugby League? “Opportunities come once in a lifetime and this was an opportunity for me to progress in my rugby career and also as a person,” he said. “I’d been with the PNG Hunters and the international team for three years. There were other boys waiting to get into the team, so by coming over here I’m helping by giving them opportunities to come through the system.”
The British game has seen a number of Papua New Guinea players over the last few years with the legendary Stanley Gene blazing the trail. But there are others currently playing in the competition including Menzie Yere of Sheffield Eagles.
Israel’s first trip to England was in 2013 for the World Cup. Papua New Guinea were based in Hull, where he played against France and Samoa. “It was really, really cold up North,” he said. “This is my first time in London and I expected it to be colder.”
Before agreeing to join the Broncos he canvassed the opinion of some of the PNG players over here. “I asked a few of them about the competition and the lifestyle. They said it’s a tough situation because your family are miles away. It’s mentally tough to face those challenges but in the end I opted to come over here.
“It’s just me and my two bags but I knew Wes Naiqama from Fiji and two or three of the Australian guys because they were in the same competition I was in.”
So how has he found training? “In the first few days it was one of the hardest things I’ve done,” he said. “It was really hard to catch my breath but now I’m getting into the system with the boys around me. I’m privileged to be part of the team and in this environment”
The 3G pitch is also something new for Israel, they don’t have any artificial grass pitches in PNG! The first game he saw on it was last week’s win over Halifax, which he said was really fast.
So how long will it be until we see him in a Broncos’ shirt? “I was looking forward to playing this week but I picked up a minor pull of the hamstring so hopefully next week or the following week. I just have to be patient because I missed out on the pre-season.”
So far he hasn’t gone beyond Ealing, but is looking forward to exploring London. How has he found the food here? “The first week I was here I was in a hotel and the food wasn’t really my choice, but a week later I moved to my apartment so I have my own choice of food. I’ve been trying to shop for the food I like and have picked up some coconut milk which is a little taste of home.”