The National, Tuesday December 8th, 2015
WHEN Mal Meninga was appointed Kumul coach after the 2013 World Cup the thinking was that here was a successful mentor who had the track record to take Papua New Guinea rugby league a long way.
He was installed as the national coaching director for the Team Kumul programme and given a handsome remuneration package said to be worth several hundred thousand kina.
The Kumul coaching job was then added on after incumbent Adrian Lam’s dismal record at the World Cup where PNG failed to win one game despite being pooled with France, New Zealand and Samoa.
All Meninga had to do was have a hand in the overall supervision and running of the programme and advice the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) on how best to meet its objectives the most important of which was to have a successful Kumuls team.
Two years on Meninga has pulled the plug on his PNG coaching job having achieved very little in tangible results or installing any programmes that can be attributable directly to him.
The question on everyone’s lips is why did we need Meninga in the first place anyway?
And what, if any, long term planning was started by the Queensland great to get the country back into the top four nations in the world as PNG fell out of the top
10 after the 2013 tournament.
Meninga’s visits to the country were few and far between and he was never a regular presence given his position and what was expected of him by rugby league stakeholders (fans, players, leagues, etc …).
Save for a launching of a programme in one part of the country or another,
his input was barely noticeable.
For a man who was only ever really active for three games in a year due to his State of Origin commitment Meninga had no excuse not to be in the country more often to oversee the development of the code.
Is that not what he was brought in for in the first place?
The line given out at the time of his announcement as Kumuls coach after
the failed World Cup campaign was that Meninga’s presence would serve
to promote PNG rugby league locally and internationally.
There has not been much of that going on where Meninga is concerned.
All that has happened was that Meninga’s name was attached to the Team Kumul programme and apart from taking a hefty appearance fee for showing his face three times a year as well as turning up to coach the Kumuls on the one or two times they get to play in year little of substance was achieved.
What the PNGRFL hoped to gain from the association with Meninga is similar to how the 2011 movie Sanctum was marketed as something created by renowned movie director James Cameron of Avatar, Titanic and Terminator 2 fame.
Cameron served as executive producer for Sanctum and in reality had nothuing to do with the movie’s script, screen play and daily production but because his name was so well known throughout the movie industry and among millions of movie goers he received top billing and credit in
the opening and closing credits.
The movie despite all its promise did not make as big a splash as advertised.
It is clear now that Meninga’s association with the PNGRFL has had more to do with branding than anything else.
Last week Meninga finally ended speculation on whether he would take up the vacant Australian Kangaroos job by being named the new coach in a press conference in Sydney.
Meninga’s decision was a no brainer.
With the Kangaroos he gets to coach a world champion team full of some of the greats of the game and he gets the prestige and the pay commensurate with that position.
It is not unlike rugby union’s Eddie Jones, a former Wallbies coach who coached Japan to its best ever performance at a Rugby World Cup this year and was set to take the country further in light of the fact that Japan would host the next World Cup in 2019 but instead chose to take up the position of head coach for 2003 champions England.
So will PNG miss Meninga?
Of course not but he needs to end his relationship with the PNGRFL properly by resigning.