If you want to win the gold medal in the women’s football tournament at the Pacific Games, you will need to get past Papua New Guinea.
Women’s football has been contested at the Pacific Games five times since making its debut in 2003 and Papua New Guinea have won gold on each occasion.
The results are by no means a foregone conclusion though and there’s been some close calls along the way.
The winning run began 17 years ago in Fiji. A round-robin format was used, and Papua New Guinea managed four wins, a loss and a draw from their six games to claim gold; Guam finished second and Tonga rounded out the podium.
In 2007, Papua New Guinea finished second in their pool after dropping a game in the group stages to Fiji but turned it on in the knockout stages.
The Melanesian nation beat Tahiti 5-0 in the semi-finals, setting up a gold medal match against Tonga.
After going behind 1-0, Papua New Guinea fought back levelling the match in the 69th minute before finding two goals in extra time to win 3-1.
One of those extra time strikes came via Lydia Banabas who registered eight goals at the tournament.
The 2011 competition took on a similar pattern as Papua New Guinea lost 2-1 to New Caledonia in pool play but managed to advance to the knockout stages.
They breezed past Fiji 4-0 in the semi-finals, which set up a return fixture against tournament hosts New Caledonia with a gold medal on the line.
With the scores locked at 1-1 late in the contest, Linah Honeakii scored from the penalty spot as Papua New Guinea triumphed yet again.
Four years on they were able to thrill their home fans with an unbeaten run that culminated in another meeting with New Caledonia in the final.
Marie Kaipu’s 21st-minute goal proved the difference as the Queens of the Pacific rose again with a 1-0 victory; catch the highlights from the 2015 gold medal match below.
In 2019, they made it five on the bounce after an unbeaten campaign in pool play that took them straight to the final against hosts Samoa.
Ramona Padio was on fire throughout the tournament, finishing with a competition-leading nine goals and she scored once in the gold medal match as Papua New Guinea beat Samoa 3-1.
This match was significant because it was the best finish by a Samoan women’s team at the Pacific Games.
But the day belonged to Papua New Guinea as they extended their run of dominance.
Coach Frederica Sakette also experienced winning at the Pacific Games during her playing career and said it was a great moment for their nation.
“We all have so much passion for women’s football and today was a good feeling,” she said after they beat Samoa.
The next Pacific Games are scheduled to take place in the Solomon Islands in 2023 where Papua New Guinea will look to make it six in a row.