By MICHAEL PHILIP
RABAUL Gurias have been searching for a good halves combination since the start of the Digicel Cup season, but John Ragi Jr and Konnie Bernard now seem to have solved their playmaking conundrum.
Coach Marcus Kaugla has put his faith in the pair to help the seventh-placed side secure a finals berth with a win over Enga Mioks, who are in sixth spot, at Kokopo’s Kalabond Oval on Saturday (2pm kick-off).
Anything short of a win will see the Agmark-sponsored side miss the top-six playoffs, so a lot of pressure will be on former centre Ragi and one-time fullback Bernard to help deliver in the clutch moments.
“Wearing the No.6 jersey is not new to me,” Ragi said.
“But at this level, the role requires a lot of commitment and effort.
“I had been playing in the five-eighth role at my local club in Kokopo, so when the coach asked me to play No.6, I took it.
“I’ve never played five-eighth at the semi-professional level, but I’m getting used to it now.
“I believe as time goes by, I will improve.
“But we have a big game coming up this weekend and I have prepared well.
“I’m looking forward to playing against the Mioks.”
Ragi and Bernard have grown up playing rugby league together, and they believe their relationship and communication will have an impact on the Gurias’ overall performance for seasons to come.
Ragi grew up in a rugby league family with dad John (former Guria), and brothers Sebulon Ragi and Quintan Ragi – who both played for Port Moresby Vipers and the Gurias – all making a name for themselves in the sport.
He began his rugby league journey in 2011, taking part in a junior programme while doing Grade 8 as a then 15-year-old at Kokopo Primary School.
After joining a schoolboys programme in 2011, he wasted no time impressing which saw him being scouted by Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League national selectors for the Under-14 and U18 Junior PNG Kumuls squads between 2012 and 2014.
Ragi was a member of the national nines team in 2014 and during the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.
“ I’ve never played five-eighth at the semi-professional level, but I’m getting used to it now. I believe as time goes by, I will improve.”
The 25-year-old West New Briton was identified as a development player for the SP Hunters in 2015 while doing Grade 12 at Kokopo Secondary School.
In that year, he made his Digicel Cup debut with the Gurias after being selected from East New Britain’s schoolboys rugby league programme.
Ragi made his maiden grand final appearance in the Gurias’ 26-18 win over Simbu Lions at Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium in 2015.
Then in 2017, he made his second grand final appearance where they lost to fellow Digicel Cup heavyweights Lae Tigers.
Since his 2015 release from the Hunters, Ragi has been a mainstay of the Kokopo-based Gurias.