By PETER PUSAL
GARRY Lo’s inclusion in the PNG LNG Kumuls squad for the rugby league World Cup was never in doubt according to coach Michael Marum.
“Even if Garry didn’t sign with the Castleford Tigers, we still would have brought him in,” Marum said of Lo, who only last month had inked a two-year deal with the Super League club.
After the Western Highlander’s abrupt departure from the SP Hunters at the end of 2014, it was thought the 23-year-old had jeopardised his prospects for national selection.
And it certainly looked that way as his lone test appearance for in a Kumuls jersey coming against Tonga at the end of a memorable Q-Cup season that saw Lo, pictured, become the competition’s top try-scorer with 24 tries from as many games.
His decision to play in the United Kingdom came at a price as he would not be called up for national representation in the preceding years — he missed test selection from 2015 to this year’s Pacific test team.
But distance, scheduling and logistical difficulties were reasons for selectors turning a blind eye to the dynamic winger.
Granted, he did spend a year making little headway at the Gateshead Thunder and then a brief return home. But that all changed when he shifted to Sheffield Eagles to join PNG veteran centre Menzie Yere. Lo’s form for the Eagles over the last two seasons has been nothing short of phenomenal, with the sturdy back rattling off 45 tries in 44 games and this was a strike rate that could not be ignored.
Marum said Lo’s try-scoring prowess and his ability to “make things happen” would prove invaluable as the Kumuls look to top Pool C and book a quarterfinal spot at Melbourne’s AAMI Park against the Pool A runners-up.
“I’ve been keeping track of Garry. He’s a try-scorer, someone who can do things for us on the field that not many can,” Marum said.
“His form has been too good to ignore. It’s been great. He’s the type of player who can run 90m to score a try and we will need that.”
Marum added that the other plus the 98kg back brought to the squad was some knowledge of the opposition they would face in the pool stage.
“Garry will have experience playing against many of the players in the teams we play in our pool with Wales, Ireland and USA getting a lot of their players from that side of the world.”
By PETER PUSAL