The National – Friday, December 10, 2010
PNG Sevens coach Shane Howarth has made it clear positions in the national team will be open during this weekend’s Export Lager National sevens in Kokopo, East New Britain.
The New Zealander’s remarks were made at a sponsorship presentation in Port Moresby earlier in the week and is sure to add impetus to the PNG Rugby Football Union (PNGRFU) event.
Sixteen teams, mostly from the New Guinea Islands region, have registered for the two-day event which begins tomorrow at Kalabond Oval.
The teams are Black Orchids and Buka development side (Bougainville), Brumbies, Silverbacks and Sharks (Goroka), Kavieng Drongos (two teams) and Lihir (New Ireland), Kimbe Rebels (West New Britain), Capitals (NCD), Kaias (two teams), Gazelle, Pomio, Kokopo and Rabaul (East New Britain).
Surprisingly, major union centres such as Port Moresby and Lae have not entered sides for the tournament mainly due to funding and also because of their stated preference to focus on the code’s 15s version.
Madang and Daru also pulled out citing a lack of funds. This leaves the New Guinea Islands in the driver’s seat to continue to provide the bulk of players for Howarth’s side.
Howarth said his goal for 2011 would be to gain a permanent spot on the IRB world circuit and to do that PNG must break into the top 12.
Currently, PNG are ranked equal 20th in the world with Uruguay and Japan while fellow Pacific Islanders Cook Islands and Tonga hold higher placings.
The international calendar next year sees PNG playing in the Darwin 7s next month which will be a lead-up to the IRB’s Wellington 7s in February followed by the domestic Black Orchid 7s (Buka) in March and the Adelaide 7s in April.
PNG will need to improve drastically on previous performances to climb the rankings, however, the national side’s efforts at this year’s Commonwealth Games, where they won the bowl has set the momentum for the coming IRB sevens season.
The former All Black and Wales player nominated the New Guinea Islands as the current leading nursery for sevens talent in PNG describing the region as the games “stronghold”. And he was right as the number of stars on show will not be diminished despite the absence of the four centres with names like defending champions Kimbe Rebels’ Ponda clan in Gare, Gina, Daniel and Tony, Henry Liliket and Leo Tikot Jr on show led by captain/coach and financier Freddie Mathies.
Other stars tipped for a big showing are Capitals’ national representatives Douglas Guise, Chris Kakah, Tisa Kautu and Raymond Vagi all of whom played in the Delhi Games last October.
Kavieng has the services of Smith Lakas, Eugene Tokavai and Joe Tabutabu Jr while Lihir Islanders have Buckley Joseph and Consie Lumaris.
Hosts ENB, with their six sides, have a mix of local sevens stars and rugby league players who have speed and power aplenty in Albert Levi Jr, Boas Ruru, Bobby Pau, Jacky Marcus and Jeffery Vineval.
The only non-coastal entry Goroka, who will field three teams,have Silverbacks’ Port Moresby-based PNG representative Monty Diave.
Silverbacks are former national 7s champions (2006) and and carry the torch for the mainlanders.
Desmond Tete and Umba Ben should also feature prominently for the highlanders.
Bougainville teams may not have the more illustrious names in their ranks but Norman Hakena, Hubert Tseraha and former PNG U19 representative Tsitom Semoso will be out to put their stamp on the tournament.
The prize pool for the event has not been confirmed but is expected to between K20,000 and K30,000 with the lion’s share to the cup winners.