We need Mark’s belief

Normal, Sports

THE PNG Prime Minister’s XIII may have lost 30-18 to their Australian counter-parts yesterday but the signs were promising. Far from the one-sided flogging many  thought PNG would take against a bigger Australian side things turned out to everyone’s liking (it was an encouraging performance).
Given the game did not reach any great heights – Aussie media posts were calling it a “scrappy win” – it answered many questions about the character of the PNG team.
To see a player the stature of Michael Mark willingly hurl his 170cm and 80kg frame at the monstrous Australian defence at every opportunity speaks volumes for the tenacity and backs-to-the-wall attitude PNG took into the match.
Looking at the bigger picture, the only question going through everyone’s minds is just how competitive can we be in the Four Nations next month? There’s no need to sugar coat or underplay things here.
The 2010 edition of the Kumuls will be a lesser side than their 2008 World Cup predecessors, and that is not a knock on the current batch. A side like PNG without David Mead and Neville Costigan heading into a Four Nations tournament is certainly starting off on the back foot.
Today’s Kumuls will be compared to that 2008 side which were competitive in every match. That’s how the rugby league world will see it.
But there is one common thread which links any Kumul side and any man who considers himself a Papua New Guinean and pulls on the red, black and gold. We saw it at the last World Cup, we saw it yesterday and there is no doubt we will see it again in Sydney and Auckland next month.
The oft clichéd line of “playing for country” can surely not mean more than it does here in PNG because every Kumul has the real privilege of not only representing this nation in name but quite literally as well with rugby league the national sport.
A new management, a coach, a few new faces on the playing roster but the passion is still the same if not amplified given the adversity and the underdog tag we take into virtually every international against the world’s big guns.
Mark’s is a prime example of what PNG can achieve against the odds. And it’s something we should all be proud of. Small and written off as nothing more than an enthusiastic competitor but lacking in the tangibles of size and power he (we) has shown what real self-belief can produce. So can the Kumuls hold their own with Australia, New Zealand and England next month? Mark showed us we can. We just have to believe him.