Sunday, November 24, 2013

Former Kumul coach John Wagambie on the 2013 World Cup debacle


Kumuls Captain 1977-1984

Kumuls Coach 1992

Vipers coach 1990-1991


The Kumuls were very well funded by the national government and other sponsors to the tune of K6million, but the outcome was well below expectation. In business terms the return on investment was well below that required by shareholders, hence with the massive loss the shareholders will sack all those on the board and the Chief Executive Officer.

In this case, the situation is exactly the same, public funds was not used to gain the best possible result in the Rugby League World Cup. Funds should have been expended on the specialist training and exposure of the Kumuls. How was the compensation of these expatriate managers determined? I am a retired human resources manager who was in charge of payroll and compensation of 4, 500 employees of Post and Telecommunications Corporation. I am in a position to determine what an employee is worth depending on his qualifications and supply and demand of such a skill.

How was the package of the expatriate managers determined, the five expatriates packages total K4 million? That's a hell of a lot of money to be spending on salaries. This amount can and will do much more to develop rugby league in PNG. Are they in any form of employment now, if so what is their package and are they the best people for the job? Who determined their packages and what was the criteria used to determine the package?

The above questions are critical as K4 million of the money has been spent on salary packages of the expatriates. Their Papua New Guinean counterparts are on peanuts. Money should be spent on the skills development of rugby league players here in PNG. The schoolboys' competition should be revived and money saved from paying expensive expats should be channelled into our future Kumuls. If Mal Meninga and Adrian Lam are here for the love of the game, then they should be spending their own money and not asking for massive pay packages. In spite of public outcry about the lack of performance by Adrian Lam, he continues to defend his position.

Adrian talks about a five-year development plan, no one has seen that plan it's only a smoke screen to cover for his incompetency. To date I have not heard of or seen any development plans.

I am a veteran Kumul captain and coach, with many years of coaching at all levels from juniors, club, zone and intercity Competitions. I know what the success factors are, my record speaks for itself. I have won grand finals starting with scratch and moulding raw talent into Kumuls. Dr James Naipao, Elias Paiyo, Richard Wagambie and Ben Biri were my products from Tarangau Rugby League club. Robert Volu and LeornardTarum from Post Pumas. I have proven it in 1992 with a 100% local content in our game against the Kangaroos in 1992 at Townsville. My Kumul team had nothing compared to this team, yet we achieved more than the World Cup team. As long as Mal Meninga and Adrian Lam are involved with the Kumuls, PNG will never reach any great heights as they simply do not have the savvy to develop the game in PNG.

 The Prime Minister has been misled by some of his minsters who have no background in rugby league at all.We have wasted so much public funds and have not achieved the results. Speak to any of the Kumul players and they will tell you that they do not want Adrian as coach.

 Adrian does not have what it takes to be a coach, he does not possess the knowledge and skills to motivate and empower the players. Rugby league and any other sports require psychological input. I had a sports psychologist from the University of PNG, Dr David Boorer work with the 1992 Kumuls before we left PNG. He also worked with my team the Vipers for the two years that I was coach and we won the premiership in 1990 and 1991 which were the formative years of the Inter City competition which is now the Digicel Cup.

The team selection was made by Adrian alone without any consultations with the assistant coach and trainer, Michael Marum and Nigel Hukula. This is a sign of a lack of understanding of team dynamics, I am a trained police officer and I understand the dynamics of consultative management. If you involve all the players and team management, they will feel valued hence contributing to team morale. They will take ownership of the game and execute to perfection as they had a part in drawing up the plan of attack. Dictatorial leadership does not have any place in the game or any organisation for that matter.

To substantiate what I said above, one only has to look at the first two games of the world cup. The players were played out of position as follows:

1. Jesse Joe Nandiye- Five Eight/Centre-Played at Second Row

2. Dion Aiye-Five Eight- Played at Prop

3. Richard Kambo-Centre-Played at second row/Prop

4. Joshua Abavu-Fullback- Played on the wing

5. David Mead-Wing-played at fullback                                                                                 

6. Larsen Marabe-LOCK-Played Prop                                                                                                                      

7. Jason Tali- Wing/Centre-Lock/second Row /Prop

What coach in his right frame of mind would make such a selection blunder in a high profile game such as the World Cup. Why did Adrian not trial out these players at Kokopo where the outcome of the game meant nothing. The first game against France was a winnable game, but due to poor goal kicking all three tries scored as well as a penalty goal right in front of the posts were not converted.

David Mead was the first choice goal kicker in Kokopo and in the warm-up game against the Scottish. He kicked very poorly but yet the coach continued to give him the goal kicking duties. This is a clear sign of favouritism or stubborness by the coach.There were four recognised goal kickers in Ase Boas, Israel Eliab, Jesse Joe Nandiye, Joshua Abavu and Charlie Wabo who could have taken over the goal kicking duties. Why did Adrian not assign goal kicking duties to the local players? Adrian Lam is the only person who has the answer as to the questionable selection of David Mead as goal kicker. David does not kick for his club the Gold Coast Titans. Furthermore David Mead plays on the wing for the Titans. Joshua Abavu plays fullback but was shifted onto the wing which also requires a specialist. Such unnecessary and shortsighted decisions by the coach had a major impact on the morale and performance of the players.

Adrian's actions are very questionable and could be likened to a game fixing scandal, why else would he make such a dumb decision to play players out of position and to compromise points through the selection of an unrecognised goal kicker? The three backs that played in the forwards had never played there before, not in club or Digicel Cup. Any rugby league supporters watching the games would have been dumbfounded at the team selection.

Adrian has had two bites of the cherry and has failed miserably and he has to go now. Rugby league cannot progress under his leadership, we have the capacity to improve the standard of the game here in PNG. Adrian and Mal Meninga do not understand the mindset of the small kid running around in settlements. Only a person who grew up in such an environment will understand the way our players think and react. Only a national coach and management staff can get the Kumuls to perform at a higher level.

Two years ago David Mead and Neville Costigan came out publicly and stated that they would not play for the Kumuls in the Four Nations Cup in New Zealand, if Adrian Lam was not appointed as coach. Stanley Gene was appointed coach hence the two men declined to play for the Kumuls. Who are these people to dictate to the PNGRFL as to who should be coach?  This is an act of extortion and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. These men behave as if they are bigger than the game here in PNG

Adrian Lam has always been biased towards overseas based players over the local talent. The manner in which the local men are treated at camp clearly belittles them, making them feel second class to their expatriate colleagues. For team bonding this is the quickest way to destroy team morale, this ultimately was reflected on the field. Our style of playing football is unorthodox and should be encouraged. Too much structure in attack tends to negate our attacking flair, structure should be enforced in defence only.

Adrian Lam is on a five-year contract of AUD400, 000.00 a year, Mal Meninga AUD500, 000.00, Mathew Natusch general manager AUD500, 000.00 and Neil Dunkley High Performance Manager AUD150, 000.00. The local coaches and trainers Solo Kuliniasi sports manager, Michael Marum assistant coach, Nigel Hukula trainer/assistant coach is on far less than the expatriate coaches and managers. The four expatriate coaches and manager rope in a whopping AUD1, 550,000.00 or K3.5million kina at current exchange rate of AUD 0.39. What is the justification for paying these people so much money, yet their performance speaks otherwise? These people live in Australia and are here only for the money, why is it that the Papua New Guineans on staff have been paid pittance. It's a shame and disgrace to the people of this country.

What were the criteria for engaging these people in the first place? Adrian Lam may have been a top line player but that does not guarantee a successful transition into a coach. He failed on two occasions and must bow out with dignity or be sacked. A chief executive officer of any company who returns a loss to the company on two financial years is sacked or asked to resign. Why is it any different to Adrian Lam and Mal Meninga?

Rugby league in PNG can put to good use the millions paid to the expatriate management team. Mal Meninga is a racist as he denigrated the Kumuls in his book Big Mal. The following is an extract from his book authored by John Mc Donald. The extract is from page 42.

South Queensland played Papua New Guinea in Brisbane in May 1981. The home side won 59-3 and Meninga had a picnic perhaps Hungi is the right term scoring four tries and nine goals for 30 points. That wasn't what made the meeting, and subsequent meetings with the northern visitors, memorable."The New Guinea players had war paint on and we were playing in white guernseys," Meninga recalls. ''By the end of the game our gear was all brown. When it came to swapping guernseys I noticed how much the Papua New Guinean players stunk"  After the ritual was completed, the nose was held and swapped guernseys deposited in the garbage bin, such was the stench

 That is a complete lie as I happened to be in that team PNG Presidents XIII, neither I nor my team mates exchanged our jerseys. I was named as the best-and-fairest player for the PNG Prime Ministers XIII and Meninga for South Queensland. There was a photo taken after the presentation at Lang Park of me and Mal. He was still in his white guernsey and it was not even brown. Mal Meninga is a liar and has publically belittled the people of Papua New Guinea; he has no place in the code of rugby league in this country. He should be barred from entering this country or any business activities. He is not sincere about the development of Rugby League in this country, we don't need him. 

We have stinky bodies, so if Mal could not put up with us for a one hour presentation, how can he put up with our players on a regular basis. He is not unfazed about receiving money from a stinky body. Why is he here if he could not put up with people with stinky bodies, the answer is simple, he is here for the money. If he was genuine he should put in his money as well or do the job for a fraction of what he is on.

The NEC decision to have PNG Rugby League Foundation as an incorporated company is good, but the directorship of the team needs to be broad based. Team Kumul Ltd needs to be reviewed and scraped. The same goes to the PNGNRL Bid Ltd. Board composition needs to be all encompassing to reflect all the stake holders. These companies are funded by public funds and must have several board members from a cross section of the community to ensure transparency and prudent dispersion of funds.

The O'Neill/ Dion government has made fighting corruption a priority, so the accounts of the three rugby league companies must be audited by the Auditor General and its findings made public.

The PNGNRL Bid is only a fantasy and will never eventuate; we are so stupid to think that PNG will enter a team in the NRL. This will never happen as we simply do not fit the racial profile to be accepted into this exclusive club. We have been so gullible to waste money on the PNGNRL Bid and appointing Australians whose credentials are questionable. It is so very difficult for our coaches and players to get a work permit to play and coach in Australia, why are we making it very easy for Australians to come in and get employed? What was the selection criteria and was the job advertised extensively in Australia, England and New Zealand in order to attract the best person for the job?

The NRL Bid company should be abolished and funds saved channelled into building capacity in the country, using local content to run development programmes in all parts of PNG.

I am writing a comprehensive development plan for rugby league in PNG and will present it to the Prime Minister and NEC on request. I am confident that the Kumuls can do well in the next world cup, if my recommendations are accepted and implemented.

As a former national coach and captain, I am off the view that the Kumuls had what it takes to be competitive; the manner in which the team was prepared for the games is questionable. For a start I would like to ask this question: "Did the national selectors select the Kumul Team?'' if so how come there was only one specialist prop and three backs were played in the forwards.

 There appeared to be a bias towards overseas based players. I am confident that if the Kumuls had won against France, they would have gone on to beat Samoa and give New Zealand a good run for their money. I know what it takes to win games.  There are other factors other than money that determine performance.

Our players showed in the second half of their games against Samoa and New Zealand, that they were capable of scoring tries. A coach's job is to provide advice to his players on tactics to outsmart the opposition. The team's performance rests squarely on the coaches shoulders. He can't pass the buck as he has the final say on team composition and strategy. The manner in which the players are treated also has a big bearing on their performance. Psychology has a big part to play in any sports; hence, the coach needs to use sports psychologists to prepare the players mentally.

Adrian Lam has failed to deliver the goods in two world cups and he needs to go, he has not demonstrated that he has the capability to be national coach. The manner in which he handled the team leaves much to be desired.

 As national coach in 1992 my team achieved the best result of 32-14 loss to the Kangaroos in Townsville. The half time scores were 8-0 in favour of the Kangaroos. Mal Meninga was in that team as well. The highlight of the game was when our 75kg fullback, Philip Boge knocked out a 110kg Michael Hancock. Late Akuila Emil ran rings around Allan Langer. The game could have gone either way barring four poor refereeing decisions against the Kumuls.

We had to pay our players and management levy to go on the trip. There were no overseas-based players or management team members, we did not have anywhere near the funding available to the current Kumuls. If we could do it back then, at present we can do even better with more funding and structured player development programs.

Strategy for improving rugby league performance in PNG

1.            Advertise and employ an experienced expatriate national coaching director and employ a national understudy;

2.            Appoint four regional development officers;

3.            Promote schoolboys rugby league development in all schools throughout PNG.

Our national players start playing rugby league when they are in their teens or older, compared to Australia whose players start playing at five-years-old. This creates a major disadvantage to our national players, the school boys competition will alleviate this gap.


1.            Terminate contracts for all expatriate coaches and trainers

2.            Audit the expenditure of funds spent by the three companies

3.            Liquidate the two companies PNGNRL Bid and Team Kumuls Ltd.


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