THEY may be extreme long shots to win their opening encounter against Australia but the PNG Telikom Kumuls could rock the boat against a depleted Kangaroos outfit.
With the aging Darren Lockyer, 33, at the helm, the Kangaroos inspire a fragile look coupled with the absence of a galaxy of stars in the likes of Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne, Jamie Lyon, Jonathan Thurston and Luke O’Donnell, the pendulum of opportunity may have swung ever so slightly the Kumuls way for Sunday’s Four Nations opener at Parramatta Stadium in Sydney.
The Kumuls, as first time coach Stanley Gene intimated during the week, have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Kangaroos, regardless of their line-up, are expected to breeze through their first match.
A huge plus for the home side is the retention of Melbourne Storm trio Cameron Smith (hooker), Cooper Cronk (halfback) and Billy Slater (fullback),who will add considerably to the Kangaroos’ game plan and ease the creative workload on veteran Lockyer.
PNG’s hopes rest firmly on their halves and how well they can implement Gene’s strategy.
Playmaker Dion Aiye, 23, who will most likely shift to halfback with Jessie Joe Parker at stand-off, must take a firm grip on the Kumuls’ play options and tactics.
It is time for the talented youngster to step up on the big stage.
The Kumul pack have shown that they can hold their own in the middle third against world class opposition but the question is can they do it for the full 80 minutes.
They will need to in order to keep the pressure on the Australians.
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens has gone for a blend of size and toughness with the monstrous pair in Dave Shillington, Tom Leahroyd-Lahrs the big units in the pack while Paul Gallen and Nate Myles provide the “mongrel”.
Petero Civoniceva, Luke Lewis, Sam Thaiday and Anthony Watmough round of a formidable task for Kumul pack leader Rodney Pora and his men.
Much will rest on the Kumuls ability to complete their sets and come up with quality fifth tackle options.
Kumul backrowers Rod Griffin, Sigfred Gande, George Moni and Glen Nami have the job of cleaning up and finishing off Kangaroo runners who who are certain to threaten the line repeatedly.
The likely Kumuls team: Ryan Tongia, Michael Mark, Menzie Yere, Larsen Marabe, Richard Kambo, Jessie Joe Parker, Dion Aiye, Rodney Pora, Benjamin John, Makali Aizue, Rod Griffin, George Moni, Paul Aiton (c) and reserves Nixon Kolo, Sigfred Gande, Glen Nami and Charlie Wabo.