The PNG Kumuls head into the 2017 Rugby League World Cup on a high after the PNG Hunters breakthrough success in the Intrust Super Cup in Queensland, and although they disappointed in the NRL State Championship a week later, the rugby league mad nation head into this tournament full of confidence.
Hunters players dominate the Kumuls squad, but it is the extra additions of quality they needed and receive by the inclusions of Captain David Mead, Nene McDonald, Kurt Baptiste and James Segeyaro, alongside a host of NRL contracted PNG players who are on the fringe of their respective NRL sides like Justin Olam, Kato Ottio, Rhyse Martin and Rod Griffin.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE KUMULS
What you can expect from the Kumuls is a slight variation of what the Hunters produced in the Intrust Super Cup given a large chunk of the squad comes that team and the Kumuls are coached by Michael Marum (Hunters coach). That means committed, punishing defence, and enthusiastic hit ups up the middle. But from the looks of the recent trials against Fiji and Australia their attack had a little more spark, with both tries against Fiji coming from some excellent ball movement. A little more ad lib football and width has been something the Hunters have really missed. The Hunters one out football was really exposed against Penrith in the State Championship, and it was only solid goal line defence that kept them in a lot of games in 2017.
Based on the Hunters performances in both Grand Finals and the trials previously mentioned, there will be errors too, and there lies the key of their success at this World Cup. If they can reduce the amount of turnovers, they will limit the damage some of the better sides can do with more ball. They still won the Intrust Super Cup despite 19 errors and a pile of missed tackles, but a repeat will see them punished on the bigger stage.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Vice Captain and Intrust Super Cup player of the Year and Best on Ground in the ISC Grand Final has had a massive 2017, and this World Cup could be the icing on a wonderful season.
He was first class against Fiji in the trial game, and more performances like that and continuing his great 2017 gives him a real chance to impress on the world stage for a potential NRL gig.
Selected somewhat controversially as originally Kumuls could only be selected from NRL, Intrust Super competitions and Super League, Garry Lo was chosen after a ttemendous stint with the Sheffield Eagles in the lower tier of English Rugby League. His work for the Eagles has seen him being signed for Castleford in the English Super League for 2018.
He has scored 74 Tries in 67 games for the Hunters and Sheffield Eagles, and was leading try scorer of the Intrust Super Cup in 2015 and shows speed, a real thirst for try scoring. The first glimpse of Lo in the trial against Fiji showed very promising signs with some enthusiastic hit ups. He is just what the PNG need in the backline, a little more dynamic ball running.
And given the opportunity, I’ll always point rugby league fans to the exploits of Willie “Freight Train” Minoga, the impact forward and Intrust Super Cup Grand Final hero.
HOW FAR WILL PNG GO?
Given the incredible advantage of having the three home games at the National football Stadium in front of a 15,000 sell out of league’s most passionate fans, one would think that the Kumuls would be able to win all three of their pool games in Port Moresby and top the pool.
That means a match up against the 2nd team from Pool A, which on paper looks like England. Can the Kumuls beat England is then the big question on the progression in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Probably not given the NRL and Super League quality up against the mainly Intrust Super Cup/Premiership players, but if they can hold onto the ball and play at their very best an upset is not out of the question.
I say why not, given the wave of success of PNG rugby league in 2017 that the Kumuls can cause an upset in the Quartrer Finals but pull up short in the next phase.
PNG KUMULS SQUAD
Ase Boas, Enock Maki, Moses Meninga, Nixon Put, Stanton Albert, Stargroth Amean, Wartovo Puara Jr, Wellington Albert, Watson Boas, Willie Minoga (PNG Hunters), David Mead (Brisbane Broncos), James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks), Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons), Kurt Baptise, Kato Ottio (Canberra Raiders), Rhyse Martin, Rod Griffin (Canterbury Bulldogs) Luke Page (Burleigh Bears), Lachlan Lam (Sydney Roosters), Garry Lo (Sheffield Eagles), Thompson Teteh (Redcliffe Dolphins), Paul Aiton (Catalans Dragons), Justin Olam (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Coach: Michael Marum