8th November 2019, 09:59 | englandrl
I honestly do not know how to describe the reception we received when we touched down in Goroka, Papua New Guinea.
As soon as we got off the aircraft at Goroka Airport we were immediately greeted with a 'Welcome England Women's Rugby League Team' banner which was amazing. We could see a few people waiting on the opposite side of the gates but once we had collected our bags it really hit home just how important our arrival was to the people of Goroka.
We left and were given a cultural welcome thanks to the mud men and locals who shook our hands, cheered for us and handed out gifts. As we were setting up for the team photo under another England banner I looked to the right and noticed there were literally hundreds of people queued against the fence to see our arrival. I couldn't believe it.
Two buses were waiting to take us to our hotel and while they weren't quite the usual matchday coach we're used to, they did have some fancy interior. As I boarded, I noticed that there were posters promoting Saturday's fixture against the Orchids and it was actually my headshot that was on the image!
I mean how crazy is that? I’m over thousands of miles from home in the middle of a town in the Easter Highlands of Papua New Guinea and my England headshot is plastered on the vehicles in and around the airport. For an 18-year-old girl so far from home this was unbelievable.
I didn't have too much time to dwell on that however as we soon left the airport and it dawned on us the real size of the crowd that had gathered to see our arrival. There were locals queued up for miles along roadside, waving at us, touching the bus and cheering.
I had seen some of the footage from the England Knights' visit last year but our welcome was just as big, if not bigger.
We received another lovely reception later in the evening when we met up with the PNG Orchids for a welcome party at their hotel in Goroka. We spoke to some of the Orchids girls about their training camp so far, what it means for them to play in Goroka and then we listened to dignitaries from the International Rugby League, Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League, the British High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea and local parliamentary figures. And, of course, there were loads of selfies taken.
But, on a serious note, listening to everybody discuss the importance of this tour and, in particular, this game in Goroka, made me us all realise that we're doing something special by coming over to Papua New Guinea and playing the Orchids - we really are trailblazers.
Now, it's onto Saturday!