RUGGED Kumul backrower Rod Griffin received a boost this week when he was named in the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister’s XIII for the Sept 26 clash against Australia’s PM’s XIII.
For the rampaging North Queensland Pride forward, this is a welcome return to national colours after being left out of the final two matches in last year’s Pacific Cup in Port Moresby amid off-field allegations.
He made history with the Pride last Sunday, helping the side to their first premiership in a 30-20 Queensland Cup grand final win over Norths at Suncorp Stadium.
And the steamrolling runs that have become his trademark were on display, with Griffin dragging three Devils across the line as he charged over for a try early in the second half.
An international as a teenager, Griffin has been in and out of the Kumuls’ side in recent years but will be keen to cement his place with the side part of next month’s Four Nations tournament.
Pride coach David Maiden said Griffin had only learnt of his selection at the weekend but was able to take the club’s initial grand final celebrations with his flight delayed from Monday to yesterday.
“He put himself on show in the grand final,” Maiden said.
“So good on him.”
Griffin was among a team named by new Papua New Guinea coach Stanley Gene.
Gene named Cronulla hooker Paul Aiton as captain for the annual clash against the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII in Port Moresby.
But one player the PNG league legend did not have at his disposal was PNG-born James Segeyaro, whose representative fortunes have been linked to Australia with his naming in the junior Kangaroos train-on squad yesterday.
The Cowboys hooker, a Cairns Ivanhoes junior, was named in the national youth competition’s team of the year recently and is a rising star.
The Kumuls will use the match against the Australians as the start of preparations for next month’s Four Nations tournament, which will also mark UK-based journeyman Gene’s coaching debut.
The Australian PM’s XIII beat PNG 42-18 last year.
“At the end of the day, I want players who can really have a go for the team,” he said.
“We might not have all our best players here but this is an opportunity for the fellows coming in to show us what they have.
“I want them to believe in themselves and go into the game with the right attitude.
“I’m sure we can play well against Australia.”
PNG will rely on the likes of Penrith lower-grader James Nightingale, UK-based Hunslet Hawks Michael Mark, Queensland Cup rookie Desmond Mok, Northern Pride’s Griffin, New Zealand-based Joe Pombo and Gold Coast Toyota Cup back Ryan Tongia.
Star outside back David Mead is unavailable for selection after the dynamic Gold Coast Titan fractured his foot in June.
The Australian PM’s XIII beat PNG 42-18 last year, the annual clash famed for its frenzied atmosphere both on and off the field.
PNG qualified for the Four Nations after winning last year’s Pacific Cup, but will have a massive challenge when they come up against the might of Australia, New Zealand and England.
The PM’S XIII will train at Jones Park, Mann St, from 4pm tomorrow and sign autographs for fans following training.