The 2017 Rugby League World Cup is almost here, and today the most important squad was named – the PNG Kumuls World Cup squad.
After all the excitement of the PNG Hunters Intrust Super Cup Grand Final win, and the slight disappointment of their NRL: State Championship loss to Penrith, we have turned our attention to the PNG National side and thier tilt at the Rugby League World Cup.
Of all the smaller nations competing at he 2017 Rugby League World Cup, the Kumuls have a big advantage as they avoid Australia, New Zealand, and England in the first round of fixtures, and better still they have their first three games at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby. Which will no doubt be a full house of a fiercely passionate PNG Kumuls fans. Good luck to Ireland, Wales and USA.
If they top their Pool C, they will face the second placed team from Pool A (likely England) in the first stage of knockout, and given the PNG Hunters’ stellar year and the additional quality they have added to the squad they may just be a bit of nuisance value to the English.
The PNG Kumuls World Cup squad is below, and we have our thoughts on those selected or not selected afterwards.
David Mead (Brisbane Broncos) (Capt)
Ase Boas (SP PNG Hunters) (VC)
Enock Maki (SP PNG Hunters)
Garry Lo (Sheffield Eagles)
James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks)
Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm)
Kato Ottio (Canberra Raiders)
Kurt Baptiste (Canberra Raiders)
Lachlan Lam (Sydney Roosters)
Luke Page (Burleigh Bears)
Moses Meninga (SP PNG Hunters)
Nene MacDonald (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Nixon Put (SP PNG Hunters)
Paul Aiton (Catalan Dragons)
Rhys Martin (Canterbury Bulldogs)
Rod Griffin (Canterbury Bulldogs)
Stanton Albert (SP PNG Hunters)
Stargroth Amean (SP PNG Hunters)
Thompson Teteh (Redcliffe Dolphins)
Wartovo Puara Jnr (SP PNG Hunters)
Wellington Albert (SP PNG Hunters)
Watson Boas (SP PNG Hunters)
Willie Minoga (SP PNG Hunters)
PLENTY OF HUNTERS
Unsurprisingly there are 10 Hunters named in the squad, and that will be a big advantage over most other sides as the combinations they have will be vital in the short space of time these World Cup squads have together.
You would think that the Boas brothers will be the starting halves. Watson has been great in 2017 and was the halfback in the Test v Cook Islands in May. Ase Boas could barely have had a better year, winning Player of the Intrust Super Cup and Grand Final, and captaining the Hunters to their historic premiership.
Stargroth Amean has become a world class fullback, and will push David Mead all the way to the number 1 jersey.
The Albert brothers were must includes, as were Moses Meninga and Enock Maki.
Some that were a little unlucky to miss out were centre Adex Wera and Bland Abavu. Wera was one of the best for the Hunters in the State Championship, but with so many quality options available someone good was always going to miss out.
OTHER INTRUST SUPER PLAYERS KEY INCLUSIONS
As good as the Hunters were in 2017, they weren’t the only PNG players doing well in the two second tier competitions in Queensland and NSW. Rod Griffin and Rhys Martin were named in the NSW Cup team of the year, as was Justin Olam for the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Kato Ottio has been great for the Canberra Raiders feeder side Mounties. Thompson Teteh has also been great for ISC team Redcliffe in 2017 and is the incumbent centre.
The Kumuls advantage of Hunters combination means they will lack the NRL experience that other Pacific Nations will have. PNG will still call upon the quality of David Mead, Nene McDonald, Kurt Baptiste and James Segeyaro. That last inclusion is a little bit controversial as James Segeyaro hasn’t always seen eye to eye with representing PNG. Still it provide that little extra quality they need to compete.
GARRY LO IS BACK
Another interesting selection is Garry Lo. The winger scored 33 tries in his first 28 Intrust Super Cup games for the Hunters from 2014 and was the competition’s leading scorer. He went to England chasing advancement in his career, and has recently signed for Castleford. His selection is a little controversial as Kumuls players were to have played in either the NRL, Super League or Intrust Super Competition, and he has played for the second tier Championship side Sheffield Eagles. But the man who was the leading try scorer, player of the year, and fan’s favourite of the year deserves his selection on form. That and his 45 tries in 44 games for Sheffield.
BATTLE FOR HOOKER IS INTERESTING
One position the Kumuls have plenty of options for is hooker. James Segeyaro has the NRL experience as does Kurt Baptiste, but Wartovo Puara has the combination with the Boas brothers. Segeyaro could play as a mobile back rower, with Baptiste off the bench. There’s still Paul Aiton to fit in from Super League.
Unlucky was Tommy Butterfield, who was one the Kumuls best in the Pacific Test in May and has missed out for this World Cup.
LACHLAN LAM – SON OF A GUN
People may recognise one of the surnames in the squad – Lachlan Lam – who is the son of former Kumul great Adrian Lam.
He is currently in the Roosters player pathway.
AND YES, WILLIE MINOGA IS IN
Regular readers and Hunters fans alike should all be relieved as the Grand Final hero has been named in the squad.
He may struggle to get into the first 17, and nothing says off-bench impact than Willie “Freight Train” Minoga.