KUMUL captain Paul Aiton cut a forlorn figure when interviewed soon after his team’s disasterous 76-12 loss to New Zealand on Saturday.
The tough competitor would have taken a loss of such proportions personally – after all he is the captain – but his response to questions was telling.
“We were missing something,” Aiton said trying to put a finger on the team’s woes.
“We have to find that something before our next game. It just wasn’t there when we got to the field today. The boys seemed too relaxed.”
Whatever it was Aiton was musing about, the rest of the sane world could see clearly what it was. And it was not having a better team and coach. More so the coach.
PNG were already badly behind the eight-ball heading into the Four Nations with preparations in disaray.
Picking a team made up mostly of PNG-based players was already a “writting on the wall” scenario and added to that an untried and untested coach and you knew things were going to get ugly.
But the most frustrating thing for fans and followers of the Kumuls would be the way in which the new management seemed to be lost in a fantasy world with unrealistic expectations of the team and talking up its chances.
Whether it was just promotional blather or a deep set belief in the side’s ability is open to argument but as they say “the proof is in the pudding” and so far the Stanley Gene-Gary Juffa combination has not produced anything tangible on which to build confidence or hope.
Gene’s qualifications as a coach must be questioned.
Given the team assembled cannot boast the experience and quality of predecessor Adrian Lam’s teams going all the way back to the 2008 World Cup you still have to wonder if Gene was the right choice for the role.
Most individuals who eventually take on the head coach’s role have done after years or at least some time as an understudy to an experienced and more often then not successful predecessor.
Not so Gene.
He practically waltzed into the job vacated by Lam in August.
So does he have any pedigree, any expereince as a coach, anything out of the ordinary to offer, maybe a plan of some sort?
From what the Kumuls have produced over the last two months, the answer has to be in the negative.
The selection of the squad has to be scrutinised as well. Several names raised a few eye-brows simply because they came right out of left field and the management could not explain their inclusion other than personal preference.
If the Four Nations is Gene’s test for how he will fare as coach, then the signs do not look promising at all.
There has been no discernable improvement in the Kumuls since the PM’s XIII match and Saturday was a further proof. Do not expect the Kumuls to turn it around against the English.
There are just too many problems with the Kumuls to be able to come close to beating a very ordinary English side.