THE Kumul’s recent loss to the England Knights in a close scoreline of 16-12 in Lae should be taken seriously. A month ago, Papua New Guinea was beaten 34-16 by Australia in the Prime Minister’s 13 match in Port Moresby.
The results are reality checks, not only for the Kumuls but also for the PNG Rugby Football League board and management.
Tier-one countries like Australia, New Zealand and England have a big pool of talent to draw from to fill their development and national teams.
Tonga and Samoa are second-tier countries, but are blessed with an abundance of players in the NRL and Super League.
Fiji has a growing pool of players in the NRL.
For PNG, the situation will continue to get more challenging for our local players to break into the NRL or Super League.
The national Government has already taken positive steps to improve the standard of rugby league in the country with the construction of world-class stadiums. PNG Rugby Football League should embrace the government’s commitment and map out effective policies and strategies to complement the government initiatives.
The PNG Hunters concept has created a pathway for our local talent. The Kumuls greatly benefited from the Hunters concept, which provides the bulk of the playing squad. However, there needs to be an expansion to create a wider player base at the elite level like the Queensland Intrust Cup.
This year, we all have seen what happens when half of last year’s winning Hunters players become unavailable for whatever reason. It affected the Kumuls this year because we don’t have a player base that is wide and deep enough to fill in the void.
It is vital that the PNG Rugby Football League maps out a plan for a second franchise to compete in the Queensland Intrust Cup to improve the player base from which the Kumuls can draw from.
With no disrespect to anyone, the recent events of mostly overseas-based players opting out of Kumuls selection for whatever reason, leaves a lot to be desired.
The Hunters inception has partially addressed a key area in the development of an elite level playing group, which six years ago was nonexistence.
Currently, the professional elite player base is still small for the Kumuls.
A second team in the Queensland Intrust Cup will give more local talents the right exposure at the elite level.
It will create a healthier competition for Kumuls selection.
The national Government’s plans to build world-class stadiums in Lae and Goroka should be complemented with a second PNG team in the Queensland Intrust Cup, preferably based in Lae and Goroka.
Hunters Tok Stret