David Mead is likely to be one of the first names on the team sheet, with the nine-times capped Brisbane Broncos winger set to line-up at fullback in order to accommodate Dragons winger Nene Macdonald and Storm speedster Justin Olam on the wings. It is expected Marum will name Hunters Stargroth Amean and try-scoring wizard Bland Abavu in the centres, while Richard Pandia and Thompson Teteh will also be in contention for a place in the backline.
The Hunters’ tried and tested halves combination of Israel Eliab and Ase Boas will make up the crux of the side, with Watson Boas also tipped to feature off the bench. Cowboys utility Ray Thompson will be Marum’s first choice out of dummy-half; however, if unavailable, Marum will certainly have a selection headache on his hands. The No.9 jersey could be hotly contested, with Silas Gahuna, Lawrence Tu’u, Noel Joel and incumbent Wartovo Puara all having a case to make.
High-impact forward Luke Page from the Burleigh Bears should secure his place in the side alongside the experienced Rod Griffin and fellow Bulldogs back-rower Rhyse Martin. Competing for the remaining spots in the forward pack will be some of the Hunters’ big men.
Henry Wan, Esau Siune and Enoch Maki have all proved their consistency for the Kumuls so far in 2017, Maki having played on the world stage in the past. Rahdly Brawa, however, could be a bolter for a spot in the front row, competing with Ipswich Jets forward Sebastian Pandia.Pandia will also be in contention for the back row, with Willie Minoga likely to be named, while a host of others, including Nixon Putt, Ishmael Baikawa and David Loko, will all have a case to make. Brothers Wellington and Stanton, both formerly at Penrith, have proven themselves to Marum for the Hunters in 2017; however, the last bench spot may ultimately be gifted to Moses Meninga.
The Kumuls have plenty of depth across the board, which should provide a massive boost for the end-of-year World Cup when they take on Wales, Ireland and the United States in Port Moresby.
They will head into the Pacific Test against the Cook Islands as outright favourites, although with Tony Iro likely to name a host of NRL stars, Papua New Guinea could receive a rude shock that may derail their World Cup preparation.
- Riley Pettigrew/The Roar
Papua New Guinea’s best 17 – 1. David Mead (Brisbane Broncos, nine caps), 2. Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons, five caps), 3. Bland Abavu (Papua New Guinea Hunters, yet to debut), 4. Stargroth Amean (Papua New Guinea Hunters, one cap), 5. Justin Olam (Sunshine Coast Falcons, one cap), 6. Israel Eliab (Papua New Guinea Hunters, three caps), 7. Ase Boas (Papua New Guinea Hunters, two caps), 8. Luke Page (Burleigh Bears, two caps), 9. Ray Thompson (North Queensland Cowboys, four caps), 10. Henry Wan (Papua New Guinea Hunters, one cap), 11. Willie Minoga (Papua New Guinea Hunters, two caps), 12. Rhyse Martin (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, two caps), 13. Rod Griffin (Captain; Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 10 caps); Interchange
14. Watson Boas (Papua New Guinea Hunters, one cap), 15. Esau Siune (Papua New Guinea Hunters, yet to debut), 16. Enoch Maki (Papua New Guinea Hunters, three caps), 17. Moses Meninga (Papua New Guinea Hunters, yet to debut).