By ISAAC LIRI
THE Papua New Guinea Prime Minister’s 13 team for Saturday’s annual rugby league fixture against Australia was finalised yesterday.
Coach Stanley Tepend, pictured, was given the honour of naming the National Gaming and Control Board-sponsored 18-man side in place of head coach Michael Marum who is committed to preparations for the SP PNG Hunters’ Q-Cup grand final in Brisbane on Sunday.
The team was named in the presence of Sports Vice-Minister Wesley Raminai, naming rights sponsor National Gaming Control Board chief executive officer Imelda Agon, and PNG Rugby Football League chairman Sandis Tsaka. “I think the selectors have done a good job giving me a good side to work with. We have a couple of debutants and a couple of experienced players. We are also fortunate to have a couple of Hunters players,” Tepend said.
Knowing the massive task at hand with the Australian PM’s 13 consisting of great NRL players aiming to impress Australian Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga for a spot in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Tepend was confident his players would rise to the occasion.
“We are expecting a really tough match. We are working hard to match them and we know it won’t be easy, but our players have passion to play for their country,” he said. “I think we just have to prepare menatlly with the short period of time given. Our players know how to play and anything can happen. We will just have to work to our strengths.
“It’s always a challenge playing Australia because you’re up against the world’s best players but it’s also an opportunity for our boys.”
The only omission to the extended squad named last week was former Kumul forward Timothy Lomai ruled out with a shoulder injury.
Chairman Tsaka said he was confident in the side made up of Digicel Cup talent.
Vice-minister Raminai reminded the players that giving their best was what was expected.
Raminai announced five-eighth Charlie Simon as the side’s captain.
Meanwhile, the Australian PM’s 13 and Jillaroos teams arrive in Port Moresby this afternoon.
The Jillaroos are due in at 12.35pm with the Meninga’s PM’s 13 due in from Cairns at 1.10pm.
Both teams will enter through the ceremonial park for the public to greet them.
A media conference will be held at Stanley Hotel where the coach Meninga and captain Aaron Woods and Jillarros coach Brad Donald and captain Ruan Simms will attend.
They will be joined by coach Tepend and captain Simon and Oil Search PNG Orchids coach Dennis Miall and captain Cathy Neap.
All four teams will attend dinner at the Crowne Plaza tomorrow night to raise funds for the Orchids.
The teams will conduct coaching clinics tomorrow morning at the National Football Stadium. The theme for this year’s matches is “Strong men respect women”.
This is will be the Jillaroos’ first visit to PNG while the Orchids will make history by playing their first ever game.
PNG PM’s 13: 1. Joe Joshua (Tigers) 2. Brendan Gotuno (Vipers) 3. Stanford Talitha (Wigmen) 4. Junior Rau (Wigmen) 5. Karo Kauna Jr (Hunters) 6. Jason Missian (Gurias) 7. Charlie Simon – captain (Tigers) 8. Junior Rop (Tigers) 9. Stanley Olo (Gurias) 10. Dilbert Isaac (Gurias) 11. Tuvi Lepan (Gurias) 12. Kato Ottio (Mounties, NSW) 13. John Andy (Tigers); Reserves: 14. Sailas Gahuna (Hunters) 15. William Mone (Hunters) 16. Eddie Daffa (Lahanis) 17. Muka Peter Kulu (Hunters) 18. Joshua Nane (Mioks).
By ISAAC LIRI