However a new contract means little in the face of a global pandemic and the more Olam read about COVID-19, the more he feared for loved ones back at home due to the close way they live daily life, especially in the villages, and their modest health system.
PNG’s Health Minister Jelta Wong expressed similar concerns but, so far, the nation has recorded just eight cases across four regions, although they remain vigilant as an outbreak could spread rapidly.
“They had eight cases and they have contained it and everyone has recovered, it was to my surprise as I thought it was going to get worse,” Olam told The Age on Friday.
“With the way we live, how close we all are but it’s been good. That’s the scary thing, it can spread so fast.”
When the NRL players went on leave for five weeks due to the season being suspended, many Storm players headed home to Queensland or NSW but Olam stayed.
“I couldn’t go home, I was scared if the situation would get worse,” Olam said.
“I was here with my big brother [who was visiting]. I didn’t want to leave him so I just stayed here.”
Re-signing was still a special moment for Olam, who was called into the side in round 15 last season and hasn’t put a foot wrong since.
“I was no one when they spotted me so it’s good to give back to Melbourne and keep playing for them as long as I can,” Olam said.
“A lot has happened since last year. I didn’t know what to do when I got here. I had to learn things the hard way and I realised that at Storm if you work hard, you will be rewarded and things have worked out my way.”
The Storm restart their season with a clash against Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park next Saturday night, last year they played in front of more than 20,000 people but there will be no crowd this time.
A sign of Olam’s comfort at the Storm was shown by his playful dig at ageless captain Cameron Smith, aged 36, when asked about his long-term plans.
“All I have to do is stay injury free and train as hard as I can.” Olam said.
“I’ll just do that and hopefully I can play until my late 40s like Cameron.”
The Storm play Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park next Saturday at 7.35pm.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.