By ZACHERY PER
KUMUL coach Stanley Gene believes it is now time for everyone associated with the team to pull together to make PNG a force internationally.
Gene, who coached the national side after Adrian Lam stood down a month before the start of the Four Nations tournament, said this from England yesterday.
Despite losing all three games, Gene feels his inexperienced squad improved throughout the tournament and wants to make sure everything is done for his players to make the next step up in international rugby league.
He said it was now time for PNG rugby league to take positive steps and said everyone could not continue to be negative any more.
Gene said although this was his first time he was involved with the team as a coach, he insisted his side had earned respect from the other nations.
“Sam Thaiday came over and swapped his shirt with David Loko, who had never been on a plane before the tournament.
“We had two New Zealand players come over and spend some time with us while the team was in a recovery session.
“They held us in high regard because of where we were coming from.
“That is why the time is right to make sure we don’t lose ground on the progress we have made.
“We have to look forward, not backwards,” Gene said.
“In the 2008 World Cup, half the team played in either Super League or the NRL but we only had one NRL player (Paul Aiton) this year.”
With all this in mind, Gene called on the Australian government to lift restrictions imposed on PNG players.
Visa conditions on rugby league players are stringent, while players coming from other Pacific Islands seem to find it easier to enter Australia.
“We need to make it possible for more PNG players to play in Australian competitions.
“Players from other countries are granted visas to play in the NRL or state competitions without too much difficulty.
“The more players we have playing at the highest level, the better our national team will be.
“We have one player, Jessie Joe Parker, playing in Super League next season and several others like Menzie Yere and Charlie Wabo playing in the Cooperative Challenge (British second division) and I would like to thank the English Commission for allowing our players to come to England,” Gene said.
“On the back of the Four Nations, three Kumuls have attracted interest from Queensland Cup side Ipswich Jets which was great for them.
“It will remain my goal to make sure we get as many playing abroad as soon as possible.
“The sooner we do that, the better we will be as a nation in big tournaments.
“We could’ve been coached by Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy and still would’ve struggled.
“Let’s bring back Adrian Lam and other ex-players and pull together for the sake of the nation.
“We had our time at the top, now it’s time we gave something back to the next generation of players coming through, but it will only work if we all get together,” Gene said.