2002 Kokoda Memorial Game

Australia Post released a special set of stamps to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Kokoda. The stamps were released on Saturday, August 31 2002 during the Kokoda Memorial AFL Match between the Sydney Swans and the Richmond Tigers. Australian Post released a special stamp sheet to guests at the game showing Ovuru Indiki, a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel. He is one of the angels left alive. The stamp sheet also shows Australian Digger Stan Bissett, Swans players, and a Koiari dancer from Sogeri. Papua New Guinea

Several clubs, including the Swans and Hawks, use the track as a fitness and bonding experience during the off season. This article from the Age in 2010 sums up the spiritual significance of the Track.

“HAWTHORN skipper Sam Mitchell and Sydney co-captain Brett Kirk both say visits to Kokoda early in their AFL careers have had a lasting emotional effect. The two teams clash at the MCG on Sunday in a match dedicated to honouring Australians and Papua New Guineans who fought at Kokoda during World War II. It will also be a fund-raiser to provide education and healthcare for children who live along the Kokoda Track.

Kirk, who visited PNG in 2000, said it held special personal significance because his grandfather, now 88, fought there and was hoping to attend Sunday’s match. ”I actually last night read the diary I wrote during the five days I was over there and had some really vivid memories,” Kirk said. ”The one thing that really sticks out is the spirit of Kokoda. I’m talking about the courage, the sacrifice, but also about how the human spirit overcomes adversity. ”Early in my career this was really poignant and I think being able to come back and spend a Christmas with my grandfather, I was probably pretty naive before I went over there about what it was all about.”

Kirk said the Hawks deserved credit for trying to raise the profile of that aspect of Australia’s history. Mitchell said his team’s 2005 trip to Kokoda was emotionally ”by far the hardest thing I’d done”.He said the most haunting moment was visiting a hill that was covered in graves of young soldiers who had died there. ”We all sat there and there’s just all these unmarked graves and you just imagine what it would be like having soldiers coming up these hills to you, and these are the graves of your countrymen that have been lost right here,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the club had gained much from visiting Kokoda and were happy the fund-raising aspect of Sunday’s game meant they could give something back.