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4 Dec 2023 12:44
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    After a serious rugby league injury, Dorna Longbut is making her mark in para-sport

    Papua New Guinea's Dorna Longbut walked away from sport after her mother died and she suffered an injury that left her without the use of her left arm. But now she's thriving in para-athletics.

    - article from

    Papua New Guinean para-athlete Dorna Longbut grew up dreaming of being a rugby league star, but a serious accident during a game changed the trajectory of her life and her sporting career. 

    The 25-year-old, originally from East New Britain province, started playing rugby league in high school.

    "I grew up in a family where everyone had a good history and background with sports," she said.

    During her senior year at school, she decided to play in her local rugby league finals despite her final exams being around the corner.

    At the time, her late mum, who was already diagnosed with breast cancer, tried discouraging her from competing.

    "But she just didn't listen and went on to play the sport. What [happened] next would change her life forever," her dad, Terry Longbut, said.

    During the finals, Longbut sustained a very serious left arm injury after a dangerous tackle, without knowing that this would become a permanent injury.

    She was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, and despite multiple surgeries, she could no longer use her left arm.

    "By that time, my mum became very sick because of the cancer," she said.

    "All she could do was pray for me when I went into that surgery room and always stayed by my side and smiled every time."

    Finding her way back to sport

    Longbut lost her mum in 2018. Her life became very complicated as she was caught up in physical and emotional pain.

    "My life took another serious hit when we lost her, the challenges we had to face while I was still going through surgeries," she said.

    Looking for a fresh start, Longbut and her dad, a television personality, moved to Port Moresby in 2019 where he had a job offer.

    By then Longbut had made up her mind that she would no longer compete in sport.

    In 2021, Terry interviewed members of the PNG Paralympic Committee for his sports show Kick-Off to see how the committee helps to identify and support para-athletes.

    It was then that the idea struck to seek advice from the committee after the show, so that he could encourage his daughter to have a go at individual sports.

    "At first, when he consulted me, I told him I didn't want to participate in sports anymore," Longbut said.

    "However, being the only parent in my life, I knew he wanted what was best for me and kept encouraging me to have a go."

    She then started training and competing in track and field events, including the 100m, javelin, and shot-put.

    "My first international trip, I travelled to England with my coaches after receiving an invite from the British Athletics during the GAPS Camp in Birmingham [England] last April," she said.

    After the camp, she was successfully classified as a T/F47 athlete, which meant she was eligible to represent PNG at any competition if she qualified.

    Longbut made the national team to compete at the 2022 Mini Pacific Games in Saipan, Northern Marianna Islands, and she didn't disappoint.

    She won a gold medal in the 100m and a bronze in the shot put.

    "I got too emotional because I didn't think I would ever play any sports after sustaining that injury," she said.

    Through the Paralympic Committee, Longbut was also given the opportunity to try out badminton last year through the Team-Up-supported Inclusive Gymbad program.

    Her interest built up in this sport, as well as it giving her the assurance to participate and look at her disability as an ability.

    This allowed her to participate in her first competition in Australia through the program.

    Within a short time frame, Longbut also received a Badminton World Federation (BWF) female participation grant, which has helped her to continue her journey in the sport by attending a workshop in New Zealand.

    In 2023 alone, Longbut already has marked off a lot of achievements on her list which she didn't think she would achieve.

    This includes being awarded the SP Sports Award in the category of Best Sportsperson with a Disability in May.

    Mid-July she made her debut at the 2023 World Para-Athletics Championship in Paris, France after breaking her own record in ambulant javelin.

    "It has been a short journey but a very successful one because of the level of support I had received from my family, my peers, my coaches and the entire team," she said.

    Jamie Haro is a sports reporter with The National newspaper and has over three years of experience in mainstream media including TV, online and print in PNG. 

    She is a member of ABC International Development's Women in News and Sport Initiative, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Team Up program.


    © 2023 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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