The National, Tuesday October 15th, 2013
STARTING from the end of this month and continuing into the next, sports fans in Papua New Guinea will be riveted to their television screens when the Kumuls play at the Rugby League World Cup.
Adrian Lam and Mal Meninga, the two men who have been given the reins of the national team, must find a way to motivate and inspire the players to perform at their best.
The man who has taken the Queensland Maroons to a record eight consecutive Origin titles as a coach, Meninga told the gathered press in Port Moresby before boarding a flight to the United Kingdom yesterday he was satisfied with the way the team had been prepared.
“It’s a very enjoyable experience,” Meninga said of his time with the team and his new position as the high performance manager.
“I’m very satisfied with the way the team has been prepared. We’ve had a number of camps and we’ve played a number of games and I think we’ve picked our best footy side to do this country proud.
“They are a great bunch of young people who understand there are expectations of this country.
“They understand that they need to play to their potential to be successful and that’s our challenge. Yes, we’ve set some goals around the quarter-finals but our challenge is individually and as a group to play as best as we possibly can and let outcomes just happen.
“We’ve got to make sure that we play well in every tackle, every run and every pass. We’re really focused on our own preparation and if we get that right, we’ll do well. We’ve got tremendous attitude, passion and desire and when they put that Kumul jersey on they’ll do really well.”
Meninga and Lam are in for the long haul. They made that clear, with Meninga reminding the media that when he came on board nine months ago a five-year plan had been laid out and rugby league in PNG was taking its first steps to a better future.
But what can the fan, who has avidly and passionately followed the Kumuls through good times and the bad, expect from this side.
Judging from the recent results against the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII last month and South Sydney in February, PNG’s local players will try their hardest in spite of the disadvantages they have in not having experienced Australian or English standards.
The overseas-based Kumuls have a great responsibility to hold the team together and help instil the belief in its ability to compete.
PNG have always had a poor away record, with the side traditionally struggling to put up a credible challenge against the top nations. We may look as if we can hold our own for spots in a game but it is the overall consistency that Lam and Meninga want to see more of, particularly from local players.
Meninga said players would have to adapt to the conditions and not use the outside factors as an excuse for failure.
“We have to adapt to the conditions. We have to be ready mentally and physically. Whether it’s cold or hot we have to perform.
“I can say confidently that this is the best prepared side we can have and we just have to perform.”
Meninga said the Kumuls had the qualities to win games but just needed to have the belief. In a nutshell, Lam and Meninga are confident this team can play well enough to win games and push the stronger sides.
The players might only lack the belief and mental fortitude to make their mark on the 2013 World Cup.
That is a big vote of confidence in the Kumuls by men of the stature of Lam and Meninga.
The only thing left is for the players to prove that the faith that their coaches – and fans – have in them is not misplaced or misguided.