The National, Wednesday 12th June 2013
By PETER PUSAL
PAPUA New Guinea has not produced too many of them but big wingers are a precious commodity.
The cuurent Kumul Camp 3 in Port Moresby includes Wellington Albert, a Digicel Cup rookie – he played his first match on Sunday for the Lae Tigers – who in Team Kumul director Mal Meninga’s words, “has been brought in because he has a lot of potential”.
Albert, who stands at 191cm and weighs 101kg, is the result of a schoolboys system and selection bent that has focused on power and size in identifying outside backs for the next generation of Kumul propects.
Previous Kumul wingers have not reached such dimensions but some like James Miviri in the early 1990s and current players Elijah Riyong, Mathew Puke and Richard Kambo have hovered around the 180cm, 90kg mark.
Albert’s inclusion in the Kumuls set up points to a selection trend of preferring good fair-sized backs to good smaller units of equal ability.
The quietly-spoken 20-year-old from Karinz in the Mendi district of Southern Highlands, was part of the extended Mendi Muruks squad in 2011 and 2012 but did not get an opportunity to show his wares.
Albert (pictured left), currently a grade 12 student at Lae Secondary school, played club football for two years before being given a chance with the Tigers this season, debuting against the Hela Wigmen on Sunday and scoring a try in a match that ended in a 10-10 draw.
Incidentally, Albert’s younger brother Stanton plays for the Wigmen.
“My younger brother, Stanton, is a reserve forward for the Hela Wigmen; he’s not as tall as me but he’s probably bigger,” Albert said.
“I started playing league in Mendi when I was in grade 10 at Mendi High School.
“I played for the Giluwe Tigers in the town competition before the Muruks brought me to Lae in 2011.
Albert said he was picked in the Lae Schoolboys last year where he was then chosen by the PNG NRL Bid (as it was formerly called) Schoolboys programme along with four other promising juniors to attend the Resident Kumuls camp, run by Adrian Lam, before their match with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in February.
Team Kumul general manager Matthew Natusch (pictured centre) said all players in camp, and those outside it, were being monitored by the team with trainer Neil Dunkley keeping track of the progress all identified players were making.
“Players, currently in and those outside of the camp, are given specific fitness targets to achieve and expected to train to meet those targets,” Natusch said.
He said the camp was for the group of players to experience and learn from the latest methods in training and recovery in order to maximise their skill set; improving on their weaknesses and building on strengths.
On Albert, Natusch cautioned that any player could have the best physical attributes and a high skill level but it would mean nothing if they did not constantly strive to improve and perfect every area of their game.
“He (Albert) is a big unit, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a success right away. He’s still got some growing to do. He needs to learn how to use his attributes and manage his body so he can fullfil his potential.
“It’s all about perseverance. There’s a story about how Billy Slater (pictured right) got his break in the NRL. He went down [to Brisbane from Innisfail] with a mate to play rugby league who was supposedly more talented than him but that guy gave up not long after while Billy kept on, and look where he is now,” Natusch said.