Marum mulling over test options

Sports

NATIONAL coach Michael Marum says this year’s PNG Kumuls squad for the June 22 Pacific Test is unlikely to be dominated by SP PNG Hunters players given the club’s struggles in the Intrust Super Cup.
Marum made the comments when speaking to the media after a Hunters training session in Port Moresby on Tuesday.
The Hunters have in the past supplied the bulk of players – up to 10 – for the mid-year Test.
Other Q-Cup talent considered strong contenders include Wynnum Manly’s Edene Gebbie and Norths’ Nixon Putt as well as Townsville’s Kyle Laybutt and Burleigh’s Luke Page.
Form could take a back seat to availability as several key Kumuls and potential recruits have been injured and/or face stints on the sidelines making their NRL clubs reluctant to release them for national duties.
With North Queensland’s Nene Macdonald (broken ankle) out for the season, South Sydney’s Alex Johnston facing up to four weeks on the side lines after undergoing knee surgery and St George Illawarra’s Jack de Belin (suspension) also unavailable, the NRL’s other PNG qualified players include James Segeyaro (Broncos), Justin Olam (Storm), Rhyse Martin (Bulldogs), Lachlan Lam (Roosters) and Kurt Baptiste (Cowboys).
The availability of the England and France-based players is yet to be confirmed however Catalans Dragons back David Mead has made the trip for the one-off international in previous years.
Whether the other Super League player Wellington Albert (Leeds Rhinos) will be available is yet to be confirmed.
The current PNGRFL policy is not to pick players from the second tier Championship in the UK potentially cancelling out Barrow Raiders trio Wartovo Puara Jr, Stargroth Amean and Willie Minoga as well as Featherstone Rovers pair Watson Boas and Thompson Teteh.
The other long-serving UK talent also includes Jessie Joe Parker, Dion Aiye (Whitehaven) and Jason Tali (Doncaster).
French second division players David Loko, Henry Wan (Limoux) and Garry Lo (AS Carcassonne) also fall into this category.
Marum said selectors would consider players from Australia and UK but that would depend on their availability — form, fitness and release from their clubs.
Marum said he maintained contact with all eligible players in Australian and UK and was confident the PNGRFL would be able to pick a competitive side for the June Test against Samoa.
“We’ll pick players who are available in terms of fitness, form and if they are released from their clubs,” Marum said.
“We’ve been keeping in contact with all our guys in Australia (NRL/Q-Cup) and UK (Super League/Championship) so hopefully we can name a strong side.”
Marum said Johnston’s availability would depend on the Souths fullback’s fitness as well as club coach Wayne Bennett’s approval.
Johnston has already indicated his interest to play for PNG however the latest injury could keep him from donning the red, black and gold next month.

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