The Good: Papua New Guinea get to compete against the best Rugby League nations in the world. This should be a massive bonus to a country where League is the national sport. They are full of talented players from both the domestic SP Cup and also from the NRL, Super League and the lower grades of both Australia and England, including the likes of John Wilshere and Stanley Gene (one of the great cult figures of the modern game), and they should have the support of neutrals throughout the tournament.
The Bad: Papua New Guinea have to compete against the best Rugby League nations in the world, meaning that they have their work cut out for them from the off. Whilst they do have a collection of quality players, they are still fairly reliant on both domestic players and also players from the lower grades of England and Australia. Perhaps the biggest worry is the lack of stand-out quality in the halves. If the Kumuls want to win, they’re going to have to get in touch with their creative side.
The Ugly: It’s not so great the way that Papua New Guinea have openly been made the sacrificial lambs of this tournament. Sure, they got to qualify automatically instead of make their way through an arduous qualification process, but at the cost of being thrown to the wolves. It’s quite clear that the tournament organisers don’t expect them to reach the knockout stages, but who knows, maybe that will play into their hands…
The Key: For Papua New Guinea to progress through to the knock-out stages of this competition, it’s probably going to require a combination of an elite level Kumul performance and a big side drastically under-performing. It’s not impossible, but Papua New Guinea will definitely be hoping the Rugby Gods look over them more favourably then they did when they oversaw the creation of the Super-Group.
The Coach: Adrian Lam had a fantastic playing career in Australia and England, being one of the few players to play State of Origin and for a country other than Australia. Having re-teamed with former halves partner Brad Fittler as an Assistant Coach at the Sydney Roosters, Lam has also been moonlighting as the Kumuls’ coach. His knowledge of the big stage and his ability to convince NRL players to commit themselves to the Kumuls could prove to be a guiding light for Papua New Guinea.
Star Man: Neville Costigan is a State of Origin player, which makes his declaration for Papua New Guinea a massive coup for the Kumuls. Initially reluctant to make himself available for the country of his birth, Lam has persuaded the Canberra Raider to dedicate himself to the Kumul cause. Whilst brawn is not going to be lacking in this side, the extra big-game nous of Costigan could prove essential to Papua New Guinea’s chances of causing an upset.
Wild Card: As with most of the island sides, it’s not really well known just how well the players from the domestic competition will acquit themselves at the World Cup. It’s obviously a competitive league for them to play in, but will they be able to cope the intensity of the international game? Most of the local players have already played international football so they will at least have an idea of what to expect, but they haven’t had to face the world’s best sides, never mind three of them in a row.
Young Gun: Keith Peters is one of the youngest non-domestic members of this squad. Born in Port Moresby, he plays for the Penrith Panthers. Alas, Luke Priddis also being at Penrith has kind of prevented him from becoming a regular in the 1st grade, but this might just be the stage for him to showcase his talents.
In Conclusion… Papua New Guinea are really going to struggle to get out of this group. This is of course a shame because there is a passion around Rugby League in Papua New Guinea that is hard to match. However, it’s possible that Adrian Lam has got the Kumuls ready for the tournament of their lives, and I’m sure they will make the best of this opportunity to put themselves up against the best in the world. As long as the Kumuls can hold their head up high at the end of the tournament, then they can be happy with their World Cup. Even so, I’m sure Lam has them aiming higher than that…
Squad: Paul Aiton (Penrith Panthers), Makali Aizue (Hull KR), Jay Aston (Melbourne Storm), Jason Chan (Windsor Wolves), Neville Costigan (Canberra Raiders), Trevor Exton (Ipswich), Stanley Gene (Hull KR), Rod Griffin (Northern Pride), George Keppa (Brisbane Norths), Nickson Kolo (Masta Mark Rangers), Anton Kui (Bingtangor Lahanis), Tu’u Maori (Sydney Roosters), Larsen Marabe (Agmark Guiras), George Moni (M&J Muruks), David Moore (Gold Coast Titans), James Nightingale (Penrith Panthers), Jessie Joe Parker (Northern Pride), Keith Peters (Penrith Panthers), Rodney Pora (M & J Muruks), Kevin Prior (Wentworthville), Nico Slain (Goroka Lahanis), Charlie Wabo (M & J Muruks), John Wilshire (Salford Reds), Menzie Yere (Agmark Guiras).