By ISAAC LIRI
PAPUA New Guinea Kumuls coach Michael Marum says he will consider all top level rugby league players in the Australian National Rugby League, the English Super League and the Q-Cup for spots in his World Cup squad.
With Port Moresby to host three World Cup matches for the first time against Wales (Oct 28), Ireland (Nov 5) and USA (Nov 12), several high profile players have already declared their availability for PNG.
Marum said he had no problem having NRL experienced players such as Cronulla Sharks hooker Segeyaro and Souths Sydney Rabbitohs back Alex Johnston in the Kumuls after the pair came out in the Australian media this month offering to play for PNG.
North Queensland Cowboys hooker/half Ray Thompson, who is set to retire at the end of the year has also put his hand up for a World Cup spot.
“Segeyaro and Johnston are both NRL experienced players. There are both playing in a level higher than the Hunters players and we all know that getting to that level is not easy,” Marum said.
“If there are both available for selection, their inclusion would boost our performance at the World Cup.
“Playing at home doesn’t mean that we will have it easy against Wales, Ireland and the USA because they will bring quality sides with some NRL talent.
“So whoever is fit and available and is playing well at the top level competitions, we will consider them, because we want the best for the country,” Marum said.
Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons) and Kato Ottio (Canberra Raiders) are expected to be considered if fit and healthy.
Rod Griffin and Rhyse Martin (Canterbury Bulldogs) who played for PNG in the Pacific test against the Cook Islands earlier this year are also in the running.
Marum said the selectors would also consider players Europe with England-based Mark Mexico, Garry Lo, Jason Tali, Paul Aiton and Jessie Joe Nandye to come under consideration.
Other players in the Q-Cup outside of the Hunters are the Pandia brothers Richard and Sebastian (Ipswich Jets) who have already represented PNG, incumbent Kumuls prop Luke Page (Burleigh Bears), Tommy Butterfield (Easts Tigers).
The latest player to be eligible to play for PNG is Cowboys squad member and Townsville Blackhawks five-eighth Kyle Laybutt.
Kumul selectors have already begun their task monitoring players to finalise a train-on squad that will be used for selection.
“With 73 days to go before the World Cup we are on track with our preparations making sure all the small things are sorted out for the World Cup, the PM’s 13 and the Tri-Series in Fiji,” Marum added
Meanwhile Marum said the PM’s 13 team for this year in Sept 23 might draw in players from the Digicel Cup to take up spots due to the Hunters focus on the Q-Cup finals.
By ISAAC LIRI