Today’s clarification by PNG Rugby Football League chief executive officer Brad Tassell that the former Queensland and Australian great will coach the national sides this year must be justified.
Meninga has the credentials to be Kumuls coach, that is not in question here, but his commitment is.
He has barely placed a foot on these shores and has had little interaction with the players, teams and coaches he is supposed to be in charge of as the head of the Team Kumul programme.
Over the course of 2014, Meninga has been to PNG only three times, the latest of which was a two-day visit to launch a junior competition in Jiwaka last month.
Up until that time, Meninga’s involvement with developing the sport in the country, for which he has supposedly been paid a very generous salary (A$500,000 a year K1,151,823.62), has been less than what one would expect from a person in his position.
It is hard to imagine Meninga being able to coach a team if he has not seen the players in action and knows their strengths and weaknesses and what combinations would work best for the team.
Adrian Lam had this problem. He could not coach effectively because he did not know the players.
Granted, the representative season is very short (this year there are only two matches), but one must ask what the benefit of having a coach of Meninga’s calibre (he coached Queensland to eight straight Origin wins), and on a high salary but not overseeing the development on the ground is? It is becoming evident that the real need is to have a development manager and high performance officer in-country.
That is the way to go as other successful sports have shown. Cricket PNG recently announced former New Zealand test and one-day player Dipak Patel as head coach of the national teams. He will complete his contract in Port Moresby, working with the country’s elite players on a daily basis.
Can Meninga, or even previous Kumuls coach Lam claim to do that? Unfortunately, neither of them have done this.
Meninga, despite the great rugby league player and mentor he was and is, has not earned the right to be Kumul coach.
That honour should go to the man who has served his apprenticeship under two Kumul coaches, and has coached a team of local PNG players, the Hunters, to sixth place in the Queensland Cup competition this season.
If anyone deserves to be given a chance it is Michael Marum. He has the done the hard yards with the Hunters, in the Digicel Cup, and has been assistant Kumul coach long enough.
He knows the players, has a rapport with them and presently his tactics and strategies for having a successful team cannot be any worse than what the next man has to offer.
Sadly, Meninga has had little to no contact with Marum over the course of the season, nor has he seen the Hunters in action more than once.
This is a strange situation to be in for a man who is supposed be the head coach of the Kumuls and who is supposed to mentor someone like Marum.
The PNGRFL’s insistence with having Meninga as a part of its programme is commendable but he is being grossly under-used.
If Meninga’s role is purely as a figurehead, then surely he can be paid commensurate with that role?
Why is there a need to pump significant sums of taxpayers and sponsorship money to a cause that is not returning any tangible results?
The fact remains that the Team Kumul programme is being headed in absentia by an icon of the sport when what the code really needs is for someone to roll his sleeves up and get some real work done.
How can the PNGRFL justify continuing with Meninga in this arrangement?
It makes no sense. Will the Kumuls ever improve their standing on the international stage?
Will they ever make a win a game, make the quarter-finals or semi-finals of a World Cup? If they do, it will not be because of Meninga. It will by someone who stays and works here. The National