The National, Friday 14th September 2012
By KEITH PUARIA
SEBASTIAN Pandia’s surging revival for the Port Moresby Vipers season is not enough for a place in the 20-man Prime Minister’s XIII squad named yesterday.
Selectors David Tinemao, Steve Malum and Samson Clay were not present at the Telikom boardroom to answer questions about their choices.
Sports Vice-Minister Labi Amaiu announced the team.
He was then joined by Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League caretaker administrator Ivan Ravu and team manager and physiotherapist Matthew Natusch in answering general queries from the media.
Pandia was leading candidate to pack in beside fellow Southern Highlander and Mioks captain David Loko in the scrum, after Larsen Marabe’s mid-season move to the Orange Cup in Sydney. However selectors opted for lone Tiger Mark Mexico ahead of the dreadlocked workhorse.
Mexico makes the side after a season of sorts at the Lae-based Snax Tigers, but his selection is clearly a big part of the way coach Adrian Lam wants to approach this match.
“In the best interest of the game and its development in the country, this match against Australia means a lot for that development. But it is not a social match. In every team that we pick and prepare, we must do our best to win,” Amaiu said.
He was replying to suggestions that the laid-back approach in the announcement and preparation of the team may be a sign that the PM’s challenge was just a “platform” match rather than with real intent to win.
Vipers utility back Israel Eliab was surprisingly named at halfback, with Lam probably the person with the reasons why, while Wartovo Puara Jr was rewarded with a bench spot after an impressive season for the eventual Digicel Cup winners.
Eliab is one of 10 players retained from last September’s PM’s XIII side.
Eighteen players will be picked from the 20-man squad that includes two shadow players.
Gurias, Vipers and Lahanis contributed four players each, Muruks three and the Mioks, Eagles, Lions and Tigers a player each. Marabe is the only overseas player.
“This team was picked during the Digicel Cup season, and selectors have picked it on form coming through,” Ravu said after the announcement.
Size across the board is clear-cut key to the selection of this PMs XIII side.
The team is Josiah Abavu, Mathew Puke, Richard Kambo, Jason Tali, Albert Patak, Dion Aiye, Israel Eliab, Rodney Pora, Charlie Wabo, Gonzella Urakusie, David Loko, Mark Mexico, Glen Nami, Wesley Mohokule, Larson Marabe, Enoch Maki, Wartovo Puara Jr, and Essau Siune.
Shadows are Roy Kela and Thompson Teteh.
Lam will be assisted by Gurias Coach Michael Marum, with Neil Dunkley trainer, Dr James Naipao as Team Doctor, and Natusch.
Players are expected in Port Moresby by Saturday for their first session on Sunday.
Lam will also arrive on Saturday from Sydney.