PAPUA New Guinea captain Paul Aiton believes hero worshipping the opposition is the biggest problem facing his side as they prepare to defy the odds during the Four Nations tournament.
The Kumuls have just completed a week-long coaching camp under new coach Stanley Gene but will arrive in Australia under-done and light on experience for matches against the Kangaroos (Oct 24), New Zealand (Oct 30) and England (Nov 6).
Sharks hooker Aiton is the only player with an extensive NRL CV, leaving him to guide a squad containing mostly PNG club players under a rookie coach.
Seven players in the 24-man squad are yet to taste international rugby league while four others only debuted this year.
Aiton’s biggest challenge is convincing his players to leave their autograph books at home and ignore the fact they will be up against their heroes.
“They love their footy and look up to the Australians, the Kiwi players and the English players,” he told Sportal shortly after returning from PNG yesterday.
“They have got to pass the starstruck stage and establish themselves as international players.”
Aiton fears a hattrick of thrashings could set the game back in PNG.
But he is confident there is enough talent within the squad to remain competitive throughout the tournament.
“It is a good challenge. These are the best three teams in the world,” Aiton said.
“To be playing against these guys is going to be good for our players.
“Most of them are out of the local competition in PNG so they know this is a big opportunity to show what they have got.
“They will be pumped. They are looking forward to the challenge.
“The boys have got a lot of heart. They will run hard and tackle all day.”
Asked what advice he will pass on to his young team ahead of the clash with Australia at Parramatta Stadium next Sunday, Aiton replied: “Just to be competitive and to challenge yourself on every play.”