PNG rugby league a work in progress - Kumuls coach

5:16 pm on 22 October 2020

Papua New Guinea rugby league coach Michael Marum believes the domestic game needs to lift its standards if more players are to reach their potential.

The Hela Wigmen lifted the Digicel Cup on Sunday after beating Lae Snax Tigers in the grand final in Port Moresby.

Hela Wigmen celebrate winning the 2020 Digicel Cup.

Hela Wigmen celebrate winning the 2020 Digicel Cup. Photo: Facebook/PNG National Rugby League Competition

With Covid-19 curtailing any hopes of international matches this season, the competition was bolstered by the return of overseas-based players from England and Australia, as well as the PNG Hunters squad.

But Marum said he was disappointed by the overall performances on show over the past three and a half months.

"I didn't expect the sort of performance we got from them - our players were not consistent, the teams were not," he said.

"There's a long way rugby league needs to go - if we have to do well in future next year, send another Justin Olam down to another club in the NRL. It's tough with us up here making sure our local leagues and the juniors [are of a good standard]. A lot of the basic fundamentals at Digicel Cup level are just not there."

New PNG Hunters coach Matt Church (2R) issues instructions at training.

The PNG Hunters squad featured in the Digicel Cup after the Queensland Cup was cancelled because of Covid-19. Photo: Facebook/PNG Hunters

The Kumuls head coach is also head of performance for the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League and has spent a lot of time this year travelling around the country and working with local clubs and coaches.

He spent time in training with 10 of the 12 Digicel Cup teams and said there's a lot of room for improvement.

"I wasn't surprised when I was watching the full competition this year so I had to follow all the games, I'd do videos and was assisting the referees as well. We've got a lot of work to do in that result. The Digicel Cup just to finish off with the finals, a bit more trouble that was good but [there's still room for improvement with] the football."

PNG Kumuls coach Michael Marum, will be the facilities manager for the new High Performance Centre.

Michael Marum. Photo: Facebook/PNG Hunters

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup is due to kick off one year from Friday, with Papua New Guinea facing a daunting first up clash against Tonga.

However preparations have been rocky, with plans to host a series of high performance camps falling through because of issues around funding and Covid-19, and the future of international travel still uncertain.

"The Hunters probably can start their pre-season early and that's how we can probably look at some more players, get them through that program again," Marum explained.

"We don't know what's happening early next year. I've got a list of games that we were going to play - some countries are interested in playing us in the early part of next year but it's going to really depend on Covid-19."

"I'm monitoring the players. It's good to see all those players playing overseas, especially the NRL boys. Justin [Olam at the Melbourne Storm] is still there. Alex Johnston [at the South Sydney Rabbitohs] finished last weekend. Those are our key players."

PNG Kumuls star Justin Olam is now a regular starter for the Melbourne Storm.

PNG Kumuls star Justin Olam is now a regular starter for the Melbourne Storm. Photo: PHOTOSPORT