Mead picked


GOLD Coast Titans David Mead and Nene Macdonald are among five Australia-based players picked for the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister’s 13.
The announcement by PNG Rugby Football League chairman Sandis Tsaka yesterday is a departure from last year’s policy which focused primarily on Digicel Cup players and some talent from the confederations.
PNG PM’s 13 coach Michael Marum said the five, particularly Mead, Macdonald  and North Queensland Cowboys utility Ray Thompson, would still need to confirm their places in the side but they had all told him they were keen to play.
“I spoke to David and Nene over the weekend after their loss to the Broncos and they want to play but it’ll depend on their clubs. Since they’re both moving to different clubs next year, they’ll still need to get permission to come up and play for us,” Marum said.
The other two players from Australia are Townsville Blackhawks pair Willie Minoga and Rhyse Martin.
The 25-man squad also has seven SP Hunters, including Bland Abavu, club player-of-the-year Ase Boas, Butler Morris, Melborne Storm-bound Justin Olam, Brandy Peter, Wartovo Puara Junior and Esau Siune.
Six members of the Digicel Cup-winning Lae Tigers outfit made the squad: Pasu Awane, Noel Joel, David Loko, Mafu Kalas, Anderson Benford and Junior Rop.
Marum agreed the selections for this edition of the annual fixture were oriented toward picking a strong side but there was good reason for it.
“Initially, this team was supposed to be made up of mostly Digicel Cup players, with some from the confederates but there are no international matches for us for a while and we thought it was best to give our top boys a run,” Marum said.
“We want to be competitive against Australia and with Digicel Cup players, we probably couldn’t match it with Australia so the selectors and I have come up with a side we think will be competitive.”
The match will be on Saturday, Sept 24 at the National Football Stadium, Port Moresby.
The squad in assembles on Saturday (Sept 17) and Marum said he would know by Thursday whether his NRL players would be available for the fixture.
Mead, who leaves the Titans to take up a contract with the Brisbane Broncos, is expected to captain the side — he led the side to a drought-breaking win over the Fiji Bati in May’s Pacific Test — if he is given clearance, while Macdonald, pictured, who joins the St George Illawarra Dragons next season, and Thompson are both certain starters if they are given the green light by their clubs.
The team is sponsored by the National Gaming Control Board and the list was endorsed by Prime Minster Peter O’Neill before its release.
Grand finalists Agmark Gurias have two players in prop Ila Alu and fullback Konnie Bernard.
One player each from the Gulf Isapea (Bernard Goma), Simbu Lions (Radley Brawa) and Enga Mioks (Kingston Paul) made the squad.
Confedrate bolters were Southern’s Yoks Bagave and Under-20 player Muka Peter Kulu.
Tigers coach Stanley Tepend, who coached last year’s side, will deputise for Marum.
Papua New Guinea PM’s XIII squad: Bland Abavu (Hunters), Ila Alu (Gurias), Pasu Awane (Tigers), Yoks Bagave (Southern), Anderson Benford (Tigers), Konnie Bernard (Gurias), Ase Boas (Hunters), Radley Brawa (Lions), Bernard Goma (Isapea), Noel Joel (Tigers), Mafu Kalas (Tigers), Muka Peter Kulu (Southern U20), David Loko (Tigers),  Rhyse Martin (Blackhawks), Nene Macdonald (Titans), David Mead (Titans), Willie Minoga (Blackhawks), Butler Morris (Hunters), Justin Olam (Hunters), Kingston Paul (Mioks), Brandy Peter (Hunters), Wartovo Puara Jr (Hunters), Junior Rop (Tigers), Esau Siune (Hunters), Ray Thompson (Cowboys /Blackhawks).

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