By PETER PUSAL
KUMUL coach Michael Marum is banking on the experience and game management of having four hookers in his squad of 23 for the Rugby League World Cup.
Despite concerns from some quarters that having four specialist rakes for the World Cup is surplus to the needs of the team, Marum said he had specific roles for the players picked.
“We’ve done this before at the Hunters. There was a time when we’d have two hookers and a third small man in our 17 and the reason we did that is so that we have options on attack and people who can direct plays and sets,” Marum said.
He said the four men, James Segeyaro, Kurt Baptiste, Paul Aiton and Wartovo Puara Jr would not all be necessarily used in their accustomed roles but possibly elsewhere on the park as well.
“Wartovo has that combination from the Hunters with Ase (Boas) and Watson (Boas) so that will be valuable. Paulie Aiton can play in the back-row, and that’s actually what we’ve picked him as, a back-rower who can also play dummy half.
“Kurt (Baptiste) and James (Segeyaro) are NRL standard players and we need that. We need that experience to be able to control a game and help our halves out.
“Obviously, we won’t have them all in the 17 for a single match but we will definitely use their talents and skills throughout our World Cup matches.”
Marum reflected on the Hunters’ first half performance during the interstate championship match against the Penrith Panthers earlier in the month, saying it was in those situations that having an experienced player would have made a difference.
“We were getting points put on us by Penrith and we just didn’t know how to react until it was too late,” Marum said of the 38-2 halftime score line in the game against the Panthers.
The Hunters went on to lose 42-18.
“If we had someone who could regain some control and settle the boys down that would have helped. We really needed that experience that playing at the NRL level can bring,” he said.
“At the end of the day, this is something that we’ve been trying to develop which is the ‘smart warrior’. It’s a philosophy that we’ve used with the Kumuls at the last World Cup and with the Hunters.”
Marum said he had not yet decided on how to use the likes of Segeyaro and Baptiste but hinted that either one could have a role coming off the bench while the established combination of the Hunters’ spine could get the first opportunity.
The Kumuls travel to Suva, Fiji, tomorrow for Saturday’s Tri-Series with Fiji and Australia at the ANZ Stadium. The new trial format will see the three sides play in a 120-minute fixture where PNG will play Fiji in the opening 40 minutes after which Fiji sits out the second 40 as Australia take on the Kumuls.
The final 40 will see Fiji come back to play Australia as PNG comes off.
Marum is expected to use his entire squad for the match depending on the Tri-Series interchange rules.
By PETER PUSAL