O’Neill takes reins for Muruks

Normal, Sports

The National, Tuesday 09th April, 2013

 RUGBY league great Julian O’Neill is the new coach of last year’s beaten Digicel Cup grand finalists, the Mendi Muruks.

The announcement follows re­cent news that the Mendi Muruks had re-entered the Digicel Cup following a K1.5 million rescue package by Kiburu Lodge, Petroleum Resources Ku­tubu and the Southern Highlands provincial government.

O’Neill, pictured, who has a week to put his team together, is not fazed by what the likely results will be in the first few weeks.  

Instead he is focusing on the long-term future of the club.  

He has started a nationwide recruitment programme that will ensure he puts together a team that will be dominant in the future and is primarily locally bred.

“We are working to establish a team for the future … to build our local talent and harness their skills and build strength,” he said.  

“My appointment is not about coming in for just a season and then walking away.  

“I am here for the long haul.  The Mendi Muruks will become more than a team.  It will become a business and a franchise and ultimately self-sustainable.”  

Already O’Neill has appointed Noel Aria to work closely with him as team trainer and conditioner.  

Aria is among the most qua­lified trainer in the country and has trained the likes of Richard Kambo, Enoch Maki and Kevin Frank. 

He is coach of the Defence Rugby league club at Murray Barracks.  

Aria is working with O’Neill to try and put a team on the field by next Saturday when the Muruks go head to head with last year’s finalists, the Agmark Gurias.  

Aria is clearly focused on finding young talent that he can work with and shape.  

O’Neill said while they were not out there aggressively po­aching, his door was open if any player want to join the Muruks.

He has nothing but praise for the help provided by Works Minister and Imbongu MP Frances Awesa and the sponsorship and other parliamentarians, including the Southern Highlands provincial government, which had worked tirelessly to ensure the Mendi Muruks take their place in the 2013 competition.

“The efforts they have gone to for the club and the people of Mendi and the Southern highlands was the key to me signing on and moving back to the province,” O’Neill said.  

“The commitment and tenacity of these leaders was instrumental in bringing me back,” the former Origin star added.