PRIDE and passion may have been the strongsuit an outclassed PNG Telikom Kumuls brought to the game last Sunday but those alone will not win games in the 2010 Four Nations.
It also could not provide what the Kumuls needed so badly – at least 50% possession – during the match.
Kumul coach Stanley Gene remained upbeat about the performance despite his side’s inability to control the ball and apply any kind of pressure on the opposition.
Granted the gulf in class was wide, the rookie coach must be drilling into his charges this week that you cannot get close to winning games if you are tackling all day.
Over the next two weekends, PNG will play New Zealand and England in the former’s backyard and surely must improve to save face.
If they do not, they run the real risk of being written off as a team big on heart and brawn but little else.
Several selections in the team against the Kangaroos match must be queried.
Whether it was a defensive ploy or a selection based on merit, Glen Nami at five-eighth failed to provide whatever it was Gene had hoped to achieve.
The Goroka Lahanis lock is not a natural ball-player although according to Kumuls assistant coach Peter Danga, who is also Nami’s Lahanis mentor, he is used more as a game breaker in the first receiver role for the bemobile Cup franchise.
“I use him as a game breaker usually towards the end of each half when teams are tiring.
“He can break tackles and has good hands,” Danga said in an earlier interview.
But this only confirms that some of Gene’s selection may not have been as shrewd or well thought out.
Jessie Joe Parker, who has played most of this season at five-eighth must be considered for the role outside youngster Dion Aiye. The notable ommissions of winger Richard Kambo and prop Rodney Pora for the Kumuls’ Four Nations opener must be criticised.
Kambo, who was one of the standouts in last year’s Pacific Cup, was seen accompanying the PNG team at Parramatta, but only as a spectator.
Elizah Riyong, who most likely won the wing spot ahead of Kambo, has been given three opportunities thus far to impress and proven himself to be solid but nothing more.
His apparent lack of genuine pace and attacking ability – Riyong is not a noted try-scorer whereas Kambo is – makes one wonder how he was the better option.
Vice-captain Pora’s absence from the frontrow may not have been as significant given every Kumul forward tackled ferociously but regular partner Makali Aizue is ineffective when not working in tandem with the big Western Highlander.
Perhaps of most concern was the Kumuls lack of a half who could steer the team around the park. Aiye, for all his talent, is yet to fill that role and it has shown since the Prime Minister’s XIII match las month.
Technically, the Kangaroos did Aiye no favours moving up quickly and applying pressure, cutting down his options while Billy Slater was able to get to every clearing kick with ease.
Outside Aiye the Kumuls have next to no real kicking options and Aiye must now be wishing he had a player of the quality of Keith Peters inside him.
The only shinning light in attack, when the Kumuls did have possession, was hooker Benjamin John with his creative and incisive play from dummy-half.
He struggled mightily at halfback in the Kumuls two previous games but thankfully Gene has recognised Johns better value as a rake.
In the interim, Gene must acknowledge his side’s shortcomings and device workable strategies to give the Kumuls a competitive edge in the remaining two matches of the tournament.