Kumuls coach Marum hails PNG rake’s determination
By PARKER TAMBUA
KUMULS coach Michael Marum has praised the determination of Kurt Baptiste after the Papua New Guinea hooker joined Canberra for the remainder of the National Rugby League (NRL) season.
The 29-year-old succumbed to a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury in PNG’s 6-24 Oceania Cup loss to Samoa in Sydney last year.
At the time, the former Brisbane and Sydney Roosters rake was on a one-year contract with the North Queensland Cowboys, who told him late in the season that his deal would not be extended.
With no offers from other NRL clubs, Baptiste joined the Easts Tigers this year but the Queensland Intrust Super Cup was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Baptiste has now been thrown an NRL lifeline with a season-ending injury to Canberra’s first-choice hooker Josh Hodgson and back-up rake Siliva Havili yet to prove himself as an 80-minute player.
Marum told The National yesterday that he was hopeful the Souths Logan Magpies product would declare his availability for the Kumuls heading into next year’s Rugby League World Cup in England.
“It’s great to see Baptiste back in the NRL again,” he said.
“He has worked really hard for a return to the NRL and I think he deserves the call-up from Canberra.
“But we will respect whatever decision he makes in the future, regarding his international representation.
“When he was injured last year, we held a fundraiser for him and Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas was the main contributor (with K10,000).
“The Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League and a few individuals also made contributions before we presented the funds to him when the SP Hunters travelled to Townsville to play the Blackhawks.”
Meanwhile, according to The Canberra Times, Baptiste will join the Raiders squad once he has cleared the NRL’s stringent Project Apollo protocols.
Canberra recruitment boss Peter Mulholland said Baptiste, who played for last year’s runners-up between 2014 and 2017, would bring valuable experience to the squad.
“Kurt is a talented hooker who has a proven record with the club,” Mulholland told The Canberra Times.
“He will provide our squad with experience and depth in a key position.
“We’re really happy to have him back at the club for the remainder of the year and we’re looking forward to him joining the squad as soon as he can.”
Meanwhile, ladder leaders Panthers host the fifth-placed Raiders in round 13 of the NRL at Penrith Stadium on Saturday (7.35pm kick-off). – The Canberra Times