By JACK AMI
PAPUA New Guinea Rugby Football League selector Max Tiri says the code’s approach to development and talent identification must be continuously refined and improved if the country is to make progress on the world stage.
The former Kumuls and Hagen Eagles back-rower made the remarks in Wabag last Saturday.
He raised this concern in the presence of PNGRFL chairman Sandis Tsaka and PNG Hunters and Kumuls coach Michael Marum at the Enga Schoolboys Under-18 final won by Kopen Secondary 8-2 over Four Square Secondary at Aipus Oval, Wabag.
Tiri said the PNGRFL needed to start preparing not just for next year’s World Cup but for the next two by adopting a strategic plan to improve and develop players, firstly at club and association level and through to the Digicel Cup.
“It is no longer a joke. We are continously getting beaten badly by Australia, New Zealand and England and even France. We are simply no match for them,” Tiri said.
“We have to take steps to keep up with the other countries or else even Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will move past us if they haven’t already,” Tiri said.
“Preparations for the 2017 World Cup should have started already. Players need to be identified now and monitored,” he said.
As a selector Tiri was involved in the picking of the PNG Prime Minister’s 13 who lost 58-0 to Australia but said a clear policy needed to be in place so that rugby league was developing evenly across the different levels.
He charged that presently, the SP Hunters and the Kumuls were eating up a large chunk of the budget (from state/corporate sponsors) but little was actually being done to improve the sport at the grassroots/association level.
Tiri also pointed out that the PNGRFL needed to aggressively seek out the best athletes in terms of size (height/weight) in order to be able to match other international sides.
“We will never be able to compete on even terms with the top three nations or the likes of Fiji and Samoa if our players don’t have the sound grounding in the fundamentals, as well as the size, speed and brains to play the game – those are the qualities we need to look at developing now for the future.”
PNGRFL chairman Tsaka remained positive that PNG would one day be able to compete with and beat Australia with an elite programme in placethrough the Hunters and Kumuls programmes and more players in the NRL and Super League.
Tsaka said nationaljunior sides had beaten Australia so it was a matter of carrying that succes to the senior level.
“We need ataylored elite programme to be adopted to cater for junior development and identification which Marum is currently drafting,” Tsaka said.
Marum said he was aware of the areas that needed to be looked at in order to provide a better base for the Hunters and Kumuls and was currently working to set up a Hunters junior programme.
He agreed with Tiri’s take on the Kumuls’ lack of size adding that it would take time as selectors could only pick the talent that was available.
Marum added that the onus was now on local associations and Digicel Cup clubs to focus on this aspect when considering players.
By JACK AMI