By MELTON PAIS
THE Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League named a strong Prime Minister’s 13 side that features most of the country’s NRL talent as well as Super League players David Mead and Wellington Albert in the 18-man squad for the October 6 fixture against Australia.
Former captain Mead (Catalans Dragons) and Albert (Widnes Vikings) last turned out for PNG at last year’s World Cup quarterfinal against England in Melbourne.
The NRL talent picked include James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks), Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons), Rhyse Martin (Canterbury Bulldogs), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm) and Lachlan Lam (Sydney Roosters).
The side has eight SP PNG Hunters in Watson Boas, Willie Minoga, Enoch Maki, Stanton Albert, Edene Gabbie, Rhadley Brawa, Moses Meninga and Nixon Put.
Former North Queensland Cowboys squad member Kyle Laybutt and Souths Logan Magpies centre Dan Russell add size to the backline and halves.
Easts Tigers hooker Tommy Butterfield was included.
The notable omissions are Ase Boas (Hunters), Kurt Baptiste (Sydney Roosters) and Luke Page (Burleigh Bears).
PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka along with the naming rights sponsor the National Gaming Control Board announced the squad at the National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, yesterday.
The squad also has four shadow players, two of whom are from the NRL, and whom will slot straight into the team if they are available.
The other two are from the Q-Cup and will come into consideration for injuries.
Marum confirmed the two NRL players they hope to bring in pending availability are Alex Johnston (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Jack De Belin (St George Illawarra Dragons).
“We’re waiting on Alex and Jack’s availability and if they are they will come straight into the team,” Marum said.
“They could be picked to play for Australia so we’ll wait and see but they have been approached.”
De Belin, who qualifies through a parent who was born in PNG, was part of the NSW Blues squad that won this year’s State of Origin series.
Johnston, meanwhile, played for Australia in 2014 but is eligible to play for PNG through his PNG-born mother.
Of the squad, three players are set to make their debuts for PNG – Russell, Laybutt and Gabbie.
With a little more than three years to go until the 2021 World Cup, Marum said that the PM’s 13 fixtures would now be used as a selection trial for players pushing for spots in the Kumuls for squad.
“I’m very happy with this team. We’ve chosen the best available players in each position with all the players played respectably well in their receptive matches in NRL, QRL and Super League,” Marum said.
“Some of players in the squad are fortunate enough to have already experienced playing Australia, but for the new guys, it will be something to cherish.”
Marum said he maintained the side picked was representative of the best performing talent in the top international competitions
“I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone gels over a short timeframe and how they handle the occasion.
He said the squad for the NGCB PM’s 13 will assemble in Port Moresby tomorrow for their first training session but others whose teams were involved in finals (Lam) would join the squad later.
Tsaka congratulated the PM’s 13 and added the match had taken on a new meaning with its full test status and would garner international attention.
He thanked the NGCB for continually supporting the PNG PM’s 13.
The team was signed off by Tsaka, NGCB chief executive officer Imelda Agon and Team Kumuls chairman Sudhir Guru.
The PNG squad will also be involved in a series of public events raising awareness on the gender-based violence in our country.
PNG PM’s 13: David Mead (Catalans Dragons), Wellington Albert (Widnes Vikings), James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks), Nene Macdonald (St. George Illawarra Dragons), Rhyse Martin (Canterbury Bulldogs), Lachlan Lam (Sydney Roosters), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm), Enoch Maki, Edene Gabbie, Moses Meninga, Nixon Put, Watson Boas, Willie Minoga, Stanton Albert, Rhadley Brawa (PNG Hunters), Daniel Russell (Souths Logan Magpies), Kyle Laybutt (Mackay Cutters), Tom Butterfield (East Tigers).
By MELTON PAIS