By ISAAC LIRI
KUMULS veteran Paul Aiton has pinpointed PNGRFL’s consistency and the Hunters programme as reasons for the Kumuls success and unbeaten run at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup campaign.
The 32-year-old praised the Hunters programme as a platform that raised the standard of PNG’s home-grown talent.
“I think the PNG Hunters programme has helped a lot and even some of the players that have gone away to other clubs overseas have got a bit more experience now,” Aiton, pictured, said.
“I am just hoping that going forward we can keep that consistency and not chop and change all the time.
“Keep the same set of players, keep the squad big in numbers so that we have that every year and we can build on that like other top nations. I think we need that because we haven’t had that as far as I know.
“There’s has always been people in and out, coaches in and out and turmoil in the PNGRFL but right now I think it’s the best it’s ever been since 2004.
“I’ve been to many camps with the PNG Kumuls but I’ve never felt as much at home or at ease then with these current group of players in camp.
“Things have really changed and I think it’s because of the management in PNGRFL.”
Having been part of the Kumuls in three World Cups — 2008, 2013 and 2017 — the Mt Hagen-born Kumul agrees that this year’s edition would be his most successful so far. Having won his first World Cup matches against Wales (50-6) and then Ireland (14-6) and US 64-0, Aiton said yesterday’s test would probably be his last on home soil.
“I think this will be my last time to play here on PNG soil before leading into the quarterfinals. It’s been a long career and I enjoyed every minute and it’s gone very fast,” Aiton said.
“I am just happy to be part of this team. There are so many young skilful players and I‘m just really glad that Michael Marum gave me a chance to come back and finish and be part of the World Cup for a third time.
“I just want to thank PNG for supporting me throughout my career because I played for the Kumuls before I played at first grade NRL level and I’ve always been supported.”
Currently settling down in Southern France, attached with the Catalans Dragons for another season next year, Aiton said he would always be available for PNG in any matters involving rugby league in the future.
“I never wanted to be a coach, but later on in my career it became a little bit interesting to me.”
By ISAAC LIRI