As the Rugby League world cup looms on the horizon, thoughts turn to what the likely makeup of the Kumul squad will be. Coach Michael Marum has stated that he will only consider players from the NRL, English Super League, Queensland Cup and the NSW Cup and with the highly publicised change of heart from the likes of James Segeyaro, the Kumuls will be able to field a formidable team capable of pulling of some upsets. The PNG Sports Online team takes a look at some of the likely candidates.
David Mead is the incumbent and whilst not his favoured position, played strongly in the last 2 Kumul tests wins. However Meads versatility coupled with Stargroth Amean’s recent performances for the Hunters may well see him win the custodian role with Mead shifting into the three quarter line.
The Kumuls will be able to pick from a stable of stars for the 2 wing spots. NRL cohorts Mead, Alex Johnstone and Nene Macdonald headline the options alongside side Canberra’s Kato Ottio and Melbourne’s Justin Olam. Whilst Marum has indicated not selecting players outside of the elite competitions in Australia and England, forgotten son Gary Lo would be a definite option on the flank. Its an embarrassment of riches but given Macdonald and Johnstones proven NRL pedigree they should be deployed on the wings with Mead, Olam and Ottio possible centre options.
Justin Olam deserves a centre spot by virtue of his outstanding season for the Sunshine Coast Falcons where he won the accolade of being the QRLs best centre. Ottio and Mead will fight it out for the other centre spot with Meads leadership and NRL experience giving him the edge over Ottio who would likely take a spot on the bench as a utility option for Marum both in the backline and the second row. Israel Eliab, injury permitting, would also be an outside chance.
There can only be one option for the number 6 role – Ase Boas. The Hunters Captain has had a stellar year culminating in his Player of the Year award for the best and fairest player in the Queensland Cup. He would also assume the goal kicking responsibilities and remains a real option to be Captain.
There are likely to be 2 candidates for the halfback role. The Hunters Watson Boas and the Cowboys Ray Thompson. Thompsons NRL experience gives Marum a lot of reasons to go with him however given their combination for the Hunters, the safe bet would be to select the younger Boas alongside his brother and teammate.
The Hunters duo of Stanton Albert and Nixon Put have had a great year and whilst both have been moved around the pack by Marum, lock would appear to be their best positions. Albert should win the nod off the back of his dynamic performances this year leaving Putt to fight it out for a second row spot.
Incumbent second rowers and Bulldogs teammates Rod Griffin and Rhyse Martin are the likely picks in the second row. Put has made a case this year but will most likely settle for a spot on the bench and will be a terrific impact option for Marum.
Wellington Albert will be the first prop picked. He has come of age in 2017 for the Hunters and his hard running and offloading will provide the Kumuls with the ability to get on the front foot. Luke Page is the incumbent and along with the hard running Esau Siune are options at prop. Siune is long overdue to win a Kumuls Guernsey however Pages consistency will likely see him retain his spot.
The Hooking role presents Marum with his biggest selection conundrum. James Segeyaro’s change of heart means that the Kumuls have at their disposal one of the premier hookers in the game. Wartovo Puara however is a strong chance and is helped by his Hunters combinations. Marum also has Canberra’s Kurt Baptiste, Easts Tommy Butterfield and the Cowboys Ray Thompson at his disposal. Segeyaros class would likely mean he will get the nod.
Willie Minoga’s explosiveness means he will be an impact off the bench whilst Nixon Put should get the other reserve forward position. Kato Ottio’s utility value both in the backline and the forwards will mean he should make the 17 whilst the remaining spot will depend on Marum’s approach and will come from the likes of Thompson, Baptiste or Puara with Thompsons versatility across a number of positions likely to win out.